I’ve been thinking a lot about the New Year lately. It being January 3rd and all. I’ve been thinking about resolutions and ways I want to be better. I know it is cliche, but there is a reason January 1st inspires so many people to pull out those dusty tennis shoes, to dig out that budget hidden at the bottom of the stack, or to throw away the rest of the potato chips. Yes, there’s something about January 1st that gives us the permission to wipe the slate clean, to be better than we were just the day before, when it was “last year.”
But what I’ve been thinking about is this: how do I spread out this feeling I have on January 1st and keep it beating in my chest all year long? How do I keep my resolve to wear out those tennis shoes instead of letting them collect dust again come March (I know, I work at the YMCA, this is just an example y’all)? How do I stick to my budget when I just really, really need that new sweater (this is the one that I struggle with)?
Spoiler alert: There is nothing actually special about January 1st. Our brains make it special. March 1st could be just as special if we’d let it. A new month! The old one is over! What if we resolved to do better, be better on March 1st and July 1st and October 1st? What if we took that January spirit and we spread it out all year long? What if the gyms were still just as full on May 1st as they are on January 1st?
Here’s what I propose: let’s not resist making a few good resolutions this year, but let’s only make ones we intend to keep. I’ll share one of mine with you: I want to read more in 2019. I love to read, but for some reason, sitting down in the middle of the day to read seems unreasonable to me. I feel like I should be doing laundry and sweeping up dog hairs and meal prepping. But you know what? Reading feeds me. It inspires me. It makes me a better writer and therefore a better human.
So this year, I’m going to start small and attainable, like my parents have done for their anniversary almost every year for the 37 years they’ve been married. Instead of saying to each other every year “do you want to stay married for the rest of eternity through thick and thin, in sickness and in health?” they say “you want to do another year?”
I love this approach; I think it makes so much sense. What if we tackled our resolutions like this? Instead of another year, what if on January 1st we said to ourselves, “I commit to a month of (insert resolution here.)” Then on February 1st, we reevaluate. I am resolving to read one book a month. I’m a fairly quick reader, so this should be attainable for me. If by February 1st I’ve read three books, then maybe I will adjust my goal to two books a month. But every month, I recommit to myself to do it.
So my challenge to you is this: when you’re thinking about your resolution this year, think about something that really, really matters to you and then think about how you can actually make it happen. Don’t just choose to “get healthy,” or “eat better” or “spend more time with family.” Not that those things are bad in and of themselves, I’m just suggesting you dig a little deeper. What really really matters to you deep down? For me, this year, it’s committing to reading and writing, to filling my mind with more than just the feed on my phone and the lives of Meredith Grey and Kate, Toby & Kevin. I recently read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He talks about this idea of Resistance; we all have it in our lives. It’s what keeps us from doing whatever it is that makes us better people, whatever we feel called to do, whatever moves us. (I highly recommend this book by the way, it would be a great New Year’s read.) As I mentioned, my resistance is laundry, and television (ahem, Grey’s Anatomy & This is Us), and the dishwasher and self doubt. Yours might be similar; it might not. So this year let’s fight the resistance together and let’s start with making resolutions that matter and let’s make a plan to stick with them. Let’s check on each other. Let’s start small but dream big. 2019, here we come.