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Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 19, 2018

The ‘clean slate’ illusion

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News | Dec 29, 2017

About every third article I come across this week seems to be geared toward bettering oneself in the new year — even subtly. From people showing off how they have conquered new diet trends to columns about how to love better in the next 365 days, this week is a time for people to reflect on what they have accomplished — but more so, what they have not.

Ever since I can remember, I have always craved a fresh start. As an eighth-grader going into my freshman year of high school, I wanted to reinvent myself. So I wore all black until my friends started saying they were worried about me, and our volleyball team’s T-shirts, which I was so excited to wear, were bright blue.

I had the same mind-set going into college before realizing that trying to be someone you’re not is a recipe for unhappiness. New Years’ resolutions are the same idea. We create a list of goals that will reinvent who we are and how we live our lives, whether that’s becoming a better version of ourselves or trying to be someone else entirely. The clock strikes midnight and time becomes a clean slate of possibilities.

I read in Psychology Today that New Years is a celebration of our survival. If that is true, New Years’ resolutions are about our desire to keep surviving — to live healthier, fuller, more well-rounded lives in the year to come. We can’t know what the future holds, and setting New Years’ resolutions gives us a sense of control in our trepidation of the year ahead.

The fact of the matter is, however, New Years’ resolutions are destined to fail. We go from living our normal, everyday lives to resolving to go to the gym five days a week. That isn’t a great way to make a habit stick. According to Business Insider, 80 percent of resolutions fail by February. No one can reinvent themselves overnight.

Making a New Years’ resolution has never been a high priority for me. Of course, I go through the regular thought process of promising to exercise more, to eat less sugar and more salad, to make to-do lists and stick to them, but it never goes beyond that. In fact, I hadn’t even considered making a resolution for 2018 until I started writing this column.

We need to be honest with ourselves. Many of our resolutions are impractical. They are these overarching changes we want to make to our lives without any clear direction in how to get there. You can’t get up and run a marathon tomorrow, so take it slowly and (metaphorically) shoot for a 5K first. While your end-of-year goal may be that 26.2 miles, give yourself time to adjust in any goal, whether it be physical, financial, spiritual or in your relationships.

An article on Fox News by Michael Levin suggests that the most important and only resolution anyone should make is to resolve to be truthful with yourself. “Most of us don’t do that,” Levin writes. “ … many of us bury ourselves alive under a pile of lies. We keep ourselves from reaching our true potential.”

For me, a part of being truthful with myself is making conscious “resolutions” every day. Rather than coming up with blanket goals for the year, make small decisions daily that lead to a healthier life, a life filled with more love for family and friends, filled with more love for yourself.

A New Year doesn’t give us an automatic fresh start, just like going to a new school or switching jobs doesn’t automatically make us shinier, happier people. Regardless of whether or not you stick to your resolutions this year or even make any, I think a new year makes everyone pause, take stock of their life, and at least contemplate how they can adjust accordingly. At our core, we are who we are, and we should honor that within ourselves. Life is a never-ending effort to become a more well-rounded version of that.

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