Do we really need New Year’s resolutions?

Do we really need New Year’s resolutions?

Each year I find myself engaged (sometimes in a frantic way), determining what my New Year’s resolutions will be. The first thing I do is go back to last year's list and tick all those that have been achieved.

Most of the time, the result is somewhere between "ok" and "satisfying", and if there are a few non-kept resolutions, I just convince myself that those were the "substitute" ones, the ones that would bring some extra flavour to the year's achievements.

The second step is to figure out what I want for the following year.

This year, however, making my New Year’s resolutions list went somewhat different than planned. For some strange reason, I kept asking myself "If you already know where you're heading, why do you need a list"?

Why we need goals and resolutions

Because when we have goals:

  • We feel we are evolving, changing, and becoming better versions of ourselves
  • We need structure, rules and lists to remind us of what's right and what's wrong
  • We feel safer when we are disciplined; it feels like things are under control (extra emphasis on "feels like")
  • We have something to anticipate: our future-self is always supposed to be smarter and more successful
  • We are proud of ourselves when we achieve them
  • We like to be challenged and step outside of our comfort zone

Are goals enough?

I understand that we need goals for all of these reasons. But is this a good enough reason to keep torturing ourselves with unreachable targets and extremely high expectations?

Take a look at your New Year’s resolutions from last year. Were all the points on the list relevant to your priorities? Did you WANT to achieve them or did you feel you HAD TO?

After my Procrastination course had finished, I noticed a significant change in the participants' mindset. They had goals before the course, they continued having goals after the course. However, the difference was in how they saw their goals afterwards. And the difference is called Value and Focus.

Let's use some examples to make it more specific:

  • If my New Year’s resolution is to lose 10 kilos, and I don't know WHY I am choosing this as a goal (only because that has been my resolution for the past 5 years), then I am bound to fail
  • If my New Year’s resolution is to find more friends, but this doesn't resonate with who I am and my values, then I will soon drop it, feeling very bad about myself at the same time

We need goals. But not random goals.

We need to know:

  1. What we consider important in life (values)
  2. What our next priority will be (focus)

Back to our examples:

  • If what I consider important in my life (values) is health, and my focus is to create healthy habits in my life, then losing 10 kilos is a part of a bigger-picture goal and not a goal in itself
  • If what I consider important in life (values) are deep and real connections with people of common values, then I will not try to get another hundred people in my network for the sake of socialising, but I will try to make the most out of the relationships that I already have

In a nutshell

So, when should you say no to resolutions, and when should you say yes? 

Say NO to:

  • In-between goals; goals which are not "no", but they don't feel like a "yes" either
  • Tasks and goals that don't have a home, they don't belong to a bigger goal
  • Goals and resolutions which don't add meaning and value to your life

Say YES to New Year resolutions if:

  • They are part of a bigger plan
  • They are connected to one or more of your life values
  • They thrill you, they excite you, they are YOU!

What if this year, we change the habit?

Instead of compiling a list of "must-do's" and "shoulds", let's ask ourselves:

  • If we know where we are heading, why do we need to write it down? Why do we need it written down, if the change has already started to happen?
  • Are we writing down things that are important to us, or are we trying to make ourselves more important by writing down as many things as possible?
  • Can we first figure out what our top 3 values in life are? Then pick one area that needs change or more effort and focus on the next step to make it happen?
  • Last but not least, who are we going to be when we fulfil this goal? How happy and in peace will we be with the final result?

Sounds like a good plan to me. ;-)

P.S. If you are an expat, and you experienced a feeling of loneliness when you first moved to your current country of residence, please fill in or feel free to share this survey. 

Vassia  Sarantopoulou


Vassia Sarantopoulou

Vassia Sarantopoulou is a Counselor-Psychotherapist with more than 15 years of experience, the Head Psychologist and founder of AntiLoneliness. AntiLoneliness offers individual and couples counseling, workshops and support groups, in...

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