OPINION: I let go of “resolutions” for the new year


Hailey Stessman 

As with the new year, the Fool tarot card represents a time for courage and new beginnings. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

It’s a cycle that I can never seem to break. The overbearing exhaustion of nearing the end of a year. The exhilaration of a new year promising the accomplishment of goals. The burnout that creeps up behind me once mid-January hits. I used to love setting aside time to write down on a blank page in my journal the long list of ambitions I had. Every morning in the beginning of January after I would rub the sleep from my eyes, I would read those goals I outlined for myself. It was the perfect reminder of what I envisioned myself to become by the end of the next twelve months.

But things have changed: I hate resolutions.

As each year rolled by, I often found myself in the same position I was in 12 months ago. The only difference would be that my hair was a different length, or my music taste had shifted, or I had a new favorite movie.

The bad habits that I tried to purge prior with my list of resolutions always tended to crawl back into my daily life. Rather than being excited for the month of January, I came to dread it. I knew that it was a time that I would have to face my own failures.

Even on popular TV talk shows or on magazine stands, a common headline circulating around the new year is based on keeping up with your resolutions. According to the U.S. & World News Report, the failure rate of breaking resolutions is 80%. Why is it so difficult to follow through with our goals? What is standing between us and our visions?

Responsibilities, school, work, family, love, friends, health… the list could go on and on.

I was tired of losing strength and the hope for bettering myself. So, I decided to try something different. This past year when the turn of the decade drew nearer, I toyed with a new idea of viewing the next chapter of my life. Instead of trying to stick to resolutions, I established a small list of intentions I wished to integrate into my daily tasks.

Live life with the intention of being kind, gentle, mindful, grateful, and understanding.

It was a strange feeling to enter the new year without being anxious about “stretching every morning” or “only allowing myself only an hour of social media” or “working out every single day.” The thoughts of trying to reach these high expectations no longer consumed my day.

Drinking eight glasses of water daily or getting at least eight hours of sleep every night are things that I already knew were good for me. Framing those things as “tasks” that I had to finish by sunset felt more like a burden to me rather than actually living. But, switching from making a to-do list of things that were already embedded in my daily life to facing my day with an overall intention has changed my outlook on life.

I intend to treat this day with kindness and ease.

No matter how peculiar it may sound, I found that when repeating these intentions in my head before I tackled the day, I noticed a difference in how I felt. For example, instead of riding the shuttle with my eyes glued to my phone, I made an effort to be kinder to myself by looking out the window for once on the route from Scott campus to Dodge campus. (Even though the snow has put a damper on my driving commute to school in the morning, it sure looked pretty reflecting the sunlight in Elmwood Park.)

Or, instead of spending the night watching random videos on YouTube until my eyes began to feel heavy in order to fall asleep, I tried to be kinder to myself by setting out a chunk of time to read before shutting the light off. It’s the seemingly small shift from “having to read every day before bed” to “being kinder to myself” that made a noticeable change. For me, reading is an act of kindness.

The decade is still fresh and young. There is so much time for self-growth and improvement. Don’t drag yourself down if you fail to meditate every morning or fail to stick to a diet or fail to reach a certain number of books read by the end of the year. I know it’s hard, I’m not denying that. However, I invite you to join me by setting an intention for yourself every morning, whether it be by being more present or strong or welcoming. Repeat it to yourself throughout the day.

Who knows where you’ll end up in the next 12 months. Anything is possible.