By Atiya Munir
New Years resolutions have been a tradition for years now. But is setting aims for the New Year a good idea, or is it more likely to result in failure?
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There’s no explanation needed here, really. We all know what New Year's resolutions are, and undoubtedly, there are a lot of us who have never actually stuck to them. Personally, I think the tradition of making resolutions is exactly that – a tradition. We feel inclined to make them before every changing year, but mostly don’t see them through.
I question: Are these goals actually worth setting? Do they actually increase productivity? Is success actually attained?
Whether they are daily objectives or annual goals, we all have a certain outlook or view of how we'd like our lives to go. We know what we want to do, what we want to achieve, what we want to become. In amongst the aspirations we have for ourselves, there is a lot of judgment circulating around what we ‘should’ accomplish before a certain age or before a certain date.
While there is an abundance of pressure placed on achieving our goals, what there isn’t enough of in this world is the acceptance of TAKING YOUR TIME.
Time to address the elephant in the room...
The C-word. No, not that one.
I’m assuming that your 2020 resolutions have not gone to plan? If they have, hats off to you!
Mine definitely haven’t, and now I'm setting the same ones for 2021.
Even with all this ‘free time’ that we have gained through the pandemic (positive thinking!), it's been so easy to feel unsuccessful or unproductive. Like most instances of putting pressure on ourselves, this last year has sent so many of us into a frenzy of guilt and self-criticism.
‘Oh why did I leave this assignment to the last minute?’
‘Damn, it's nearly my birthday and I haven’t lost weight.’
‘Starting from Monday, I'm going to wake up early, go for a run, blah blah...’
I think that these are relatively normal thought processes for most of us, where self-criticism is a much more instant reaction than combatting the obstacles that stopped us achieving something in the first place.
Questioning ourselves, our ability and our demeanour is actually much healthier because it triggers the Fight or Flight reaction. Fight or flight is our innate defence mechanism that automatically reacts to a stressful situation that may jeopardise our survival – whether it is physical or psychological. The adrenaline rush that takes over our body is the wake-up call that alerts us about a potential danger. Either we choose to confront it and boost our strength. Or, we simply run away.
So how does this relate to New Years Resolutions?
Resolutions are set for a reason: we want our life to change.
When our nervous system realises this, the Fight or Flight reaction is activated to either encourage or discourage ourselves from making this change become a reality. If your resolutions were successful – you were a fighter. If nothing changed after 365 days, you decided to flee, to give up.
Stress and endurance (believe it or not!) are vital components of success.
Here’s an example of a stressful experience (I’m still unsure at whether I should be proud of myself or not.)
I have a fear of heights, which is plausible as a lot of us may experience fear like this at some point in our lives. Last year, one of my resolutions was to tackle this. I endeavoured to climb every bell tower, church, and anything majestically tall in the cities I was planning to visit.
All was going well until I got to Luxembourg City.
As a solo traveller, it was that extra bit more meaningful to me to be able to climb 400 steps or whatever of a tower. I was doing this for myself. I was deliberately confronting my fears to prove to myself that it was possible. So when I saw the Pfaffenthal lift, (a glass lift, might I add), it was a no-brainer. If I was to challenge my fear, this would be how. I remember going so far as to say that I’d take the lift back down as well.
So I got in, and held the rails for dear life. My heart was racing. My eyes were fixated on the city as I slowly made my way up. I was panicking to an extent where my mouth was closed and I couldn’t exhale.
It then took me around half an hour to walk out of the lift and cross the bridge. My hands were still gripping the rails.
After an hour or so, I went back to my relaxed state.
I chose to fight.
I admit change is a wonderful thing, but also a very daunting experience. This was just one episode of me trying to battle my fear, rather than refusing to climb anything in my life EVER. I could have very easily used the flight response and walked up the hill.
Just knowing that I had the courage to take the lift was enough to give me a sense of fulfilment. Yes, I’m still slightly acrophobic, but just taking one step at a time (pun intended) will get me to where I want to be.
It is very easy to criticise. If we take too long to achieve a goal, we can very easily throw in the towel.
Instead of being caught in this vicious cycle of:
SETTING A GOAL > GIVING UP > SELF-DEPRECATION
Why not try:
PLANNING YOUR GOAL > MANAGE YOUR TIME > PERSEVERE
Out of all the obstacles that this year has thrown at us, the ultimate fight is prioritising our mental health. Whether you find solace in spending time with family or friends, craving a certain type of food, being by yourself – do it.
As I said at the start, we can have both short-term and long-term goals. The extent of those goals does not diminish our sense of fulfilment nor success. As long as you are proud of your actions, the pace at which you are going, and you are radiating happiness, there’s nothing more that needs to be done.
So, when considering any resolutions you might want to make this year, make sure you set, manage, and achieve them in a healthy way. Most importantly, take your time.
‘I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. I think if you want to change something, change it today and don't wait until the New Year.’
Follow Atiya's travel instagram here for sights from her European Travels.