New year’s resolutions don’t have to be big; they just have to be meaningful

The new year often comes with a lot of fresh energy and the feeling that this year, we’ll be better. This time of year is rife with promises to not eat sugar anymore, to exercise five times a week with no compromises or finally learn to play an instrument. And yet by Jan. 17, dubbed “National Ditch Your Resolutions Day,” we give into the temptation that just one brownie won’t hurt, to sleep in instead of hitting the weights and to set the guitar down as a lovely centerpiece in the back of our closets. It’s all too common to burn out on new year’s resolutions simply because they are too big. Everyone wants to become the best version of themselves, but we often forget that that kind of shift doesn’t happen simply because we start a new diet or a new hobby.

Instead of taking on too much at once, sit down instead and consider a “theme” for your new year instead of a bunch of grandiose resolutions. I’ve been doing this myself for the last few years, and it definitely helps me set goals that feel in line with what I need. This year, I’ve felt like I have spent so much time on my classwork, and I would constantly work on homework until it was time for me to go to sleep. There were no boundaries between being a college student and having time to relax. Therefore, I decided that my theme for 2022 will be “balance” — something that makes it easy to decide what my goals for the new year should be. If something doesn’t feel like it will help me achieve the work-life balance that I want to bring into my life, then I don’t prioritize or take those goals on. This takes a lot of the pressure off, because there’s no strict mentality of “I should get this done.” Instead, it’s more of a conscious choice about the actions I want to dedicate myself to. This doesn’t mean that I’m throwing goals out completely; I want to incorporate more exercise into my daily life, eat healthier and learn something new. But I’m hitting on all those stereotypical new year’s goals with the goal of bringing balance into my life. I’m not choosing these goals with the intention of hitting the gym a certain number of times or eating so many calories; rather, I’m exploring self-improvement that will grant me what I need in my life right now.

There’s nothing wrong with those big, superpowered resolutions if you’re the uber-determined sort. But for the vast majority of us, baby steps are what we need to get us toward the lives we want to live. You don’t need to climb Mount Everest to have a great 2022. If you want to make improvements in your life, deciding your big goal is only the first step. One of my goals is to teach myself how to draw. Obviously, I’m not going to be Michaelangelo starting out; learning how to draw and develop a style that I enjoy certainly won’t come overnight either. Instead of rushing all into it and then burning out, I’m dedicating an hour every Saturday to watching some videos on the craft and following a free online course on technique so I can at least learn how to draw the basics. It doesn’t seem like much, especially since a lot of people seem to create new year resolutions thinking they’ll see results quickly. This unfortunately is not the case; it isn’t a gung-ho full-force attack at a major goal that will help you accomplish your dreams. Instead, it is a consistent plan of action that will get you where you want to go.

The bottom line is, don’t stress yourself out if massive new year’s goals aren’t your thing. If they are, that’s fantastic. Pursue those in a way that will ensure you aren’t burned out by the nefarious day of Jan. 19. For those who want to improve their lives and don’t want to do a complete 180, remember that even the smallest changes can bring us joy. Challenge yourself to read a book a month, or discover a new band from every country on earth. In the end, a new year’s resolution is all about what will bring an improvement to your life that you feel you need. Whether you want to set an intention, a big goal or a little goal, make sure it will bring you joy. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then feel free to let it go. Changing into the best version of yourself is something that only you can control. Make sure that you like the changes you want to bring in.

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