Thoughts on new year’s resolutions – with a little help from my friends.

Another year has flown by and as 2023 ushers in hopes for a better future, along with it comes aspirational and often lofty new year’s resolutions. Whether or not you’re a fan of the tradition, the fact that millions of people set out to start the year on a better note is a reason to be optimistic.

There are many definitions and variations for the word resolution, but they all boil down to something like: “noun; a firm decision to do or not do something.” Sounds about right. But what is so special about a resolution tied to a “new year?”

According to a quick google search, the top new year’s resolutions include; exercising more, losing weight, getting organized, learning a new skill or hobby, saving more money, quitting smoking and spending more time with family. These are all virtuous, well intentioned goals – things we should all be doing year round. So why do some people make resolutions at the beginning of each year and others eschew the concept?

I invited several friends to weigh in on the topic – asking if they make new-year’s resolutions, why or why not, and to share their wishes for the new-year.  Responses varied from humorous commentary to pet peeves to world-peace level aspirations. Here are some of my favorite replies with a few of my own thrown in.

I’ll start with comments from people who believe that instead of making annual resolutions, which are hard to keep, the focus should be year round on incremental improvements and goals.

“I stopped making resolutions a while back… several years ago. I found that making promises were a way of also breaking them and setting a pattern of not keeping my word with myself. Then I found out that setting Intentions was uplifting, and renegotiable! By setting intentions now, even as a daily practice I can build self-integrity and keep my agreements with myself and others. It’s not about how many times I will go to the gym this year, rather the intention to take care of myself on each level of my being – body, mind and soul.” – Sue Staples, retired American Airlines Captain

“I don’t make new year’s resolutions anymore.” Instead, I make small goals all year round so that I can complete them successfully. If I don’t complete them, I re-evaluate and ask myself if that goal was really important to me or an expectation I created to appease others?” – Claire Prudhomme, Massage Therapist

“Every day is a fresh start, so waiting until the new-year seems silly to me. Need to change something? Need to work toward a goal? Start now.” – Tiffany Ann Kelleher, fitness instructor

“I do not make a big deal about resolutions – no big pronouncements, but I try to do a few self- improvement things like focusing on physical health/working out, being more patient and better listener, and I usually try “less swearing” cuz I can have a potty mouth sometimes.” – Nancy Dankle

“I haven’t done a new year’s resolution in a long time – mostly because I can’t seem to keep one. But something I am working on is appreciating every day and everyone who is part of each day, whether it’s a loved one or a co-worker. It’s a day to day thing.” – Lisa Burgener

“I have friends who help me keep healthy habits, exercise, etc. – so I don’t need to say I’m doing something different starting in the new year.” – Kathy Rhoads

“I gave up on resolutions years ago, but I do always re-work my own life’s blueprint before my head hits the pillow on new year’s eve. This year, I’m adding a few intentions to find a little more balance and a little more energy – a few ways to keep me moving forward. This world needs all of us. So my wish for 2023 is that we all find whatever it is we need to keep moving forward.” – Angie Marker

Those in favor of setting resolutions often have practical, efficiency based objectives that include personal, career and relationship goals. Here are some of them.

“To set boundaries to protect personal time. Limit volunteer activities to ten hours per week.” – Kathy Young

“I do my resolutions/goals quarterly instead of annually. I find this much more manageable and doable.” – Sandy Pistole

“I used to focus mostly on exercise and weight control, but now I’ve added emotional self-improvement to my resolutions” – Randi Lundstedt

“I will strive to be more tolerant of people with different beliefs and still remain true to my personal values.” – Ann Deedrich

Among the replies were a few suggestions to start the year with a key word or a positive mantra.

“I started picking a word to set the tone for the year vs making a resolution. This year my word was balance and surprisingly my work/life balance has changed and improved. I like to think it’s easier to focus on one word to implement throughout our daily lives vs resolutions.” – Maria Palmer

“At our office we always do a vision board, life list and pick a word for the year.” – Reggie Taylor, Realtor

I love this idea and think my word for the year will be “acceptance.” It can mean so many things in so many situations. I’ll let you know how this goes in a future column.

And if you need help managing negative thoughts, how about setting a time limit for venting as suggested below?

 “New 2023 rule: twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, I give myself five minutes, and only five minutes, to get my negative talk, thoughts and vibes out of my system. The rest of the day is all positive talk, thoughts and vibes.” – JB White

Others offered profound and inspirational wishes for a better world in 2023:

“For everyone to try to extend grace to others more, to assume the best of others, to be civil, and to speak/communicate from love and compassion.” – Renee Mullen

“Love prevailing would address a lot of the other one’s I could think of…” – John Kelley.

“If you always do your best to do your best, then I guess there’s no need to resolve to do better. Unfortunately, the reality is we can all do better.” – Leslie Barr.

“I would ask that everyone do one act of kindness every day. This can be as simple as opening a door for someone or thanking the convenience store worker. Sometimes it is the simple things that can impact someone’s day. – Rebecca Nef-Heffernan

There were a few who replied with humor and pet-peeves when asked what they wish for in 2023.

“Better driving on the interstate.” – Mike Zopf.

“I wish for a better golf game, but I don’t resolve to be better because that would involve practice.” – Jo Anderson.

“Pet peeve – PLEASE….. Put purse hooks in every lady’s public restroom stalls.” – Sharon Dill

Personally, I’m one of those who prefer to chip away on improvements year round instead of making ambitious annual resolutions. For me, that includes living a healthy lifestyle, being patient with others, making time for creative pursuits (such as writing) and practicing gratitude.

In addition, here’s my mixed bag of wishes for things I’d love to see happen in 2023.

  • That we can all agree to disagree when an argument leads to an impasse.
  • For those whose self-esteem is dependent on their social media status to realize their worth is not measured by likes or a high “friend” count.
  • That we learn to accept the quirks and imperfections in others and ourselves.
  • For politicians to acknowledge the many constituents whose beliefs fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
  • That bullies try kindness.
  • A moment of silence for cell phones. We survived for eons without being constantly reachable. We can surely make it through lunch.

New year’s resolutions are essentially a pact to do better – for ourselves and for others. You may swear by them or hate them, but there’s something about the start of a new year that imparts hope for positive change. So whether it takes a resolution, an affirmation, a wish or a prayer, here’s to living your best life in 2023.

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