It’s that time of year, when the gyms look less like a place to work out and more like a stadium on Superbowl Sunday. Millions of people will pack into fitness centers, gyms and yoga studios across the country in hopes of fulfilling that age-old resolution to lose weight. Millions more will make impractical plans to save money to the detriment of their daily lives and happiness. And so it goes.
The start of the year means a start to a renewed effort to promise to do all the things that we think will make us better, and (more interestingly) make people perceive us as better… thinner… more healthy, ect. If millions of people make resolutions every year, millions more make the same resolutions they did the year before and the year before that with the hopes that this time, maybe it’ll be different.
There is a reason that resolutions don’t typically work. Often, resolutions are massive wishes without a practical plan to achieve them. And sometimes, resolutions are simply clutter. If you think of each resolution as a box in a room… the more you make, the more space it takes up. And the more years you make the same resolution, the longer that box sits in that place taking up space and gathering dust and serving no purpose other than to remind you of the thing you have not done yet.
The other edge to that blade is that sometimes resolutions can become crutches. If you make the same resolutions, they may prevent you from moving ahead until you feel you’ve achieved them first. For example, maybe you can’t vacation somewhere tropical because you can’t wear a bikini because you haven’t fulfilled the resolution to lose weight. How much are your resolutions holding you back from growing and experiencing new things? If you’re hanging onto a resolution it might be time to ask yourself why, and maybe have the courage to let it go.
Instead of making resolutions, I propose making space. Instead of cluttering the room with more boxes and rearranging existing boxes, work to clear them away. Clearance does not mean giving up; instead it asks you to humble yourself to the idea of opening up to another way. Think about it: can you clearly think in a cluttered room? Can you find pleasure in getting dressed from an overcrowded and cluttered closet?
It is through making space that we find new pathways and see more clearly ahead to an idea that might not have occurred to us otherwise. And as you make space, use it to outline specific plans and make small achievable goals. Accomplishing a small goal gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps us to reach higher and further to the next goal. If the resolution is losing weight, maybe the goal is going to the gym once a week for two weeks, then twice a week for two weeks, then three times… and so on. If the resolution is saving money, maybe the goal is $10 in an automatically debited savings plan every week for one month, then $25, then $50 and so on. Consistency builds habits, and habits lead to lifestyle changes that last longer than any resolution ever has.
Resolutions are not necessarily bad things. But if you find yourself making more resolutions than achieving them, it may be time to try making space instead.