It's New Year's Eve, which means your timelines and feeds are probably inundated with humble-brag-posts about how much people have achieved this year and long essays about what people are resolving to change in their lives. Maybe you've even resolved to make a few changes in your own life. Here are a few don'ts for when you make your resolutions:
1. Don't make resolutions you can't keep
It's a classic productivity pitfall: You get inspired to change your life, come up with a thousand things to do at once, and then inevitably fail to achieve them—cue vicious cycle. But honestly, you're not going to change your life all in one burst, or totally by yourself; and some things about ourselves can't really be changed, but instead have to be accepted.
Instead of setting resolutions that involve making huge changes, set goals that are lower than or at the levels that you know you can achieve. Plan out actionable steps and deadlines to hold yourself accountable, and give yourself credit for what you've already achieved. You've kept yourself alive this long, right?
New Years Resolutions And The Planning Fallacy! Russell Brand's Advice On Mentors- New Year New Me! www.youtube.com
2. Don't make any resolutions having to do with appearance or weight loss
This time of year, companies are doing their best to sell you resolutions that will inevitably harm you more than they help. If you want to resolve to eat more vegetables and join a gym, that's great, but please don't fall prey to advertisers who want to sell you a product or convince you that you need to change yourself or be something other than you are, especially if it comes at the price of your well-being. In fact, if you're going to make a resolution involving beauty in the 2020s, resolve to smash the wellness industry.
3. Don't let others fool you into thinking they had perfect decades; and don't let others tell you who you ought to be
The truth is, we live in an achievement-obsessed society that glorifies external accomplishments, but that's just capitalism at work. Everyone else went through losses, bad days, and heavy things just like you did, and everyone else achieved things just like you did; and some of the happiest, most lettered people struggle with meaning just as much as you do. While this is an easier thing to do than to practice, remember that everyone had different advantages than you, and some people had much more help than you did—and of course, you had a lot more help than others who achieved less than you did.
That isn't to say you shouldn't be proud of your own or others' accomplishments, but in the rush of glitter and glow-ups (which often brush very close to nihilism), take a minute to breathe and look past the glossy, neon exterior of brag-posts and realize that just as the past decade has been an ongoing journey, the upcoming one will also be an ongoing journey defined by transformation and cyclicality.
In the 2020s we are done with blindly obeying others and compromising ourselves for others' wishes, but we're also done with the idea that self-actualization can be done on a completely individual scale. We all live in a continuum and are growing together. Make 2020 the decade of loving yourself and others, and prioritizing people and things who help you on this journey, or whatever journey you're on (and we're all on one).
2. Don't make 2020 another decade of dreaming and not doing
It's very easy to get caught up in your fantasies about what your life could look like instead of what it is, but what actually constitutes your life right now? Are there things you need to make peace with, that you have to accept? How much time have you spent wishing you were happier or better instead of accepting what you can't or won't change?
And if you're really not okay with something, ask yourself what actionable steps you can place in your life so that change will meet you where you are. It's actually very difficult to simply decide to feel a different way or to suddenly alter your world; usually you need exterior help to institute those changes, be it from faith, a community, or just changing your habits.
So instead of berating yourself for your lack of achievements or for not being who you want to be, consider small steps that will change the way your body feels, or small things you can do to instigate shifts. Also realize that there's just going to be a lot of suffering, and that's not something to be afraid of. That's our human existence, and it's something we all have in common for better or for worse.
And here are a few do's:
1. Think about what really mattered to you in the 2010s
When you remember the past decade, what stands out to you? Was it your big achievements, your favorite purchases, the best memories, or the best relationships? For me, it turns out that my favorite memories are of relationships, music, travel, and creative projects, but it might be very different for you. I learned that I need a lot more time alone than I sometimes wish I did and that the way you treat others often translates directly to how you feel, and I learned that what didn't matter were exterior markers of success like grades or what others thought of me, both things that sucked my time. I knew all these things, but it took experiences to apply them, which is so often the case.
So what experiences can you learn from? What were your big lessons of the 2010s? How can you apply those things to the 2020s?
2. Resolve to love more
This is probably the one resolution that can never fail you. Loving more looks different for everybody, but it's the one constant and the one resolution we can rely on. Loving more might mean cutting out toxicity, or smiling at strangers, or just accepting yourself and the people around you, or taking the initiative and showing people you love them. It might mean a million different things, but you'll never regret this choice. Loving more doesn't mean accepting sh*t; it might mean fighting harder for sh*t that's important to you.
3. Visualize what 2030 might look like, write down all your goals and resolutions for the next decade—and then burn them
It's always a good idea to journal about your accomplishments from the past decade and everything you're visualizing for the future, but remember that everything you see is skewed by your own perception, experiences, and worldview. Therefore it's important to ultimately release the ideas and cages and illusions you've built for yourself. Remember that the most important thing is being open, being kind, and taking the paths that come your way.
4. Think about how you could become a part of something bigger in the next decade
2020 is going to be an extremely formative decade. It's our last chance to really tackle the climate crisis, it's a presidential election, it's certainly going to see a total overhaul in the way media operates, current social hierarchies are going to face a reckoning, AI is going to rise up and change every industry, and every one of our values is going to be questioned. At the same time, most likely, we're going to see the rise of brand new stories and mythologies that reshape how we interact with others and how we see ourselves.
During this time, we're going to have to choose whether we remain locked in our little echo chambers or whether we expand outward, connect with others, prioritize kindness, and join movements and belief systems that actually benefit our worlds.
This won't be an either-or choice, but instead it will involve opening our minds and hearts to much bigger, braver forms of thought than we ever imagined. We're going to need to trust young people's voices (because the old ways aren't working); we're going to need to create and tell new stories; and we're going to need a lot of bravery and compassion. 2020 might be a hard decade, but it's also going to change everything.
You don't have to decide what you're going to do tonight, though, or be anyone else but the strange, awful, wonderful person you are. Just write everything down, set it on fire (carefully please), and get ready for the countdown.
See you in 2020!