real life

The unspoken pressure of coming up with a New Year's resolution.

We’re having a laugh over a drink and it’s early January. Summer heat with the odd flash rain shower. Someone in the group asks a question, a perfectly normal question to ask at this time of year: “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

The hairs on my neck bristle. I start to think but my head hits a brick wall full of clichés. Be more present. Spend less time on social media. Have a five-year plan. Take control of my finances. Be less anxious. Take more chances. Listen to my body. Listen less to my mind.

I let someone else answer first as a stalling tactic. They’ve got career goals in mind. Another member of our table has fitness goals. Another is writing their list of goals tonight. Another has an attitude-based New Year’s Resolution around ‘giving it a go’.

And then there’s me, unresolved as to what my resolution will be for 2019. It’s not because my life is perfect and I don’t want to change anything. But it’s this unspoken pressure that the very notion of a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ puts on us to pull a goal out of a hat and make that the emblem of our year.

A lot of people have issues with the idea of a New Year’s Resolution. Yes, the end of one year prompts reflection on where you were this time a year ago, and what you achieved over that year. This can be either be positive or negative – you might not have reached a certain goal and end up beating yourself up about it, or perhaps you reached a goal and just don’t know what the next level is yet.

I’m of the firm belief that our resolutions come to us. This might sound passive, like I’m waiting for a lightbulb just to show up above my head. But in our relationships with others and ourselves, we see these lightbulbs whenever they happen to switch on. I had one towards the end of last year when my brother-in-law died. It struck me without notice – I realised how I’d like to spend my time with family while I have them. And what kind of impact I’d like to leave on others, too.

These realisations felt organic. Unexpected. Impactful.

What is your word for the New Year? Rather than picking a New Year’s resolution last year, Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright, and Jessie Stephens chose a word to guide their every move in 2018. Post continues below…

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Coming up with a meaningful New Year’s Resolution breeds a certain kind of anxiety. Comparison to others, or yourself. It can be a time for positive changes to be made in your life, but it can also be a state of flux. Or holiday haze.

I don’t know about you, but my brain checked out as soon as the Christmas shutdown started. I am in no state to make New Year’s Resolutions when stuffed with pavlova and cocktails, schvitzing with sweat after spending too much time in the sun. Making a New Year’s Resolution while I’m on holiday is probably the most stressful thing I could think of right now.

Am I doing my life right? Am I making the right choices? How come I’m stuck here without a resolution – does this mean my life lacks direction?

Surely I’m not the only one who’s asked themselves these questions over the past week or two. But let us all remember right now that we can make resolutions anytime in our lives. New chapters don’t start in coordination with the calendar year. This is just one opportune time to make a resolution. We are works in progress.

So, if you find yourself being asked what your New Year’s Resolution is by a well-meaning friend or a colleague during or after the holiday break, tell them you’re just taking the year as it comes.

Don’t feel like you have to make one up to keep the conversation going or sound like you’re “on track” for the year.

You’re OK if you don’t have one yet. You might have one in a week. A month. Or in two months. Or whenever the next opportunity to ‘resolve’ things that are unresolved in your life knocks.

Who wants to have a New Years resolution when you can have a word of the year? Listen to Holly, Jessie and Mia look back on their words for 2018 and share what their words for 2019 are on Mamamia Out Loud right here.

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