That Time of Year Again . . . Why We (Should) Make New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t know what to make of New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I don’t understand why people make them. It is motivating and inspiring to start a new year by taking proactive steps towards the achievement of a particular goal we set for ourselves. But the whole process of making a resolution seems to have become so “watered down” to render it essentially meaningless. It is something we now do more out of tradition or habit than self-reflection and deep thought.

You know what I’m talking about. After the start of every new year, if we inquire curiously about the resolutions of our friends and family, we are bound to get at least one classically generic answer. The notorious “I’m going to go to the gym more” resolution is only trumped by the notably more notorious “I’m going to start going to the gym” resolution. Yes, getting more exercise is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone looking to cut the gut, which inevitably will lead to a more successful dating life in the future (obviously?). But, the “gym” resolution misses the point of why we should be making resolutions in the first place. Let me explain.

Two USD Law students make their New Year's Resolutions. Left: 3L vows to spend "heavier" money; Right: 2L vows to avert her eyes from picture books.

A New Year’s resolution is, at its core, a golden opportunity smacking us in the face. It is a chance to re-evaluate how we wish to live our lives, or, more specifically, how we can live our lives better. And the best part is we are given this opportunity simply by the passing of another year–we don’t even have to do anything! It is an opportunity that we can best utilize by putting deep thought into the person we feel we are and comparing that to the person we think we can be.

This is not to say that we must wait until the coming of a new year to think deeply about the positive changes we want to make in our lives. On the contrary, the carpe diem mentality should always prevail. But we can only “seize the day” if we are feeling motivated or inspired enough to do so. And finding that motivation, for many of us, is harder than we’d like to admit. Luckily, New Year’s never disappoints because it always sneaks around at the same predictable time. It’s the perfect motivator, the swift kick in the rear we need to take charge of our lives by doing something more or less frequently, or maybe refraining from doing something altogether.

A good New Year’s resolution is all about self-examination and maybe, if we’re lucky, rediscovery. Don’t just make a New Year’s resolution for the sake of making one. Take the time to put some really good thought into it–it will reward you in the end. We’ve been given a gift by New Year’s (besides all-night open bars), and the gift is a unique occasion to look hard at ourselves–hey, no one’s perfect, right? If we feel up to the challenge, we can set positive, self-empowering goals that will help lead us in the direction we ultimately want to go. This process of self-evaluation is where the hard work comes in. Then, all we have to worry about is actually doing what we set out to accomplish. And, as we know, that’s always the easiest part . . . right?

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