This year, I’m making a resolution not to make any resolutions. Instead of looking for something in my life I need to change or fix, I’m just going to relax into my life exactly the way it is.
And, if I’m being honest, it feels both liberating and terrifying.
In full disclosure: I’m a sucker for resolutions. As a self-improvement junkie and total type-A personality, I’m all about grabbing any opportunity to take stock of my life, identify the areas that can stand for a bit of improvement, and make a detailed plan to get from where I am to where I want to be (which usually involves a binder, calendar and color-coded tabs to mark my progress).
Call me #basic, but every year on New Year’s Day, I snuggle up with a hot cup of tea and my journal and map out my goals for the year. It’s a practice that helps me get clear on the areas of my life that need some TLC and develop an action plan for how I’m going to become a better person in the upcoming 12 months.
When I first started making New Year’s resolutions, I didn’t really take them seriously; they were more like fleeting promises to myself I never really had any intention of keeping instead of an actual, concrete plan for change. But in the last decade or so, my attitude towards resolutions has completely changed, and my annual New Year’s tradition has been the catalyst for the most significant and profound changes of my life.
In 2010, after six years of increasingly problematic drinking, my New Year’s resolution was to put down the bottle once and for all. And, thanks to that resolution (also known as “the best decision of my life”), this New Year’s I’ll be celebrating eight years alcohol-free.
In 2016, I realized that my life lacked adventure, so I made a resolution to get out of my comfort zone. Later that year, I spent four months living out of a backpack exploring Asia (and with limited access to both my cell phone and toilet paper, trust me… I was WAY out of my comfort zone).
In 2017, my fiancé and I made our first couple’s resolution to find a place where we could see ourselves for the long-term, plant roots and settle down. Five months ago, after a whirlwind house hunt, we packed up our apartment, said a tearful goodbye to our friends in Los Angeles and moved to Portland, OR – a city that has everything (and more!) we’re looking for in a forever home.
I’ve made resolutions to lose weight, to stop caring about losing weight, to eat more kale, to run a marathon, to launch my own business… all of which I’ve followed through on, and all of which have made my life significantly better.
But after almost ten years of using Jan. 1 as a springboard for major life changes, I’ve got to be honest… I’m exhausted. For the last decade, every year of my life has been like an episode of “Extreme Home Makeover”… except instead of renovating a house, I’ve spent all my time and energy renovating myself.
Which – don’t get me wrong – has been incredible. And I’m totally grateful for all the changes I’ve experienced as a direct result of my resolutions. But like I said, I’m tired. And for 2018, the plan is to do things a little differently.
On the one hand, I’m a little scared about what will happen when I toss my New Year’s tradition out the window. Will I become complacent? Will I slip back into bad habits? Without a self-improvement project, will I lack a sense of purpose and direction?
On the other hand, I’m also a little excited. When I stop focusing on the ways my life needs to change, will I start to focus more on the ways it’s amazing just as it is? Will I start to appreciate the small, quiet moments more? Will I loosen up a little and (finally) relax into my life?
I’m not sure. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when I stop treating my life like a project, it will stop feeling like one. That when I stop resolving to make things better, they’ll get better on their own. And when I stop trying to force myself to become the person I think I should be, I’ll instead transform into the person I’m meant to be.
And that? That feels like a resolution worth keeping. So bring it on 2018 — I’m ready for you.