You sit down and pull out that one random and multicolored notebook that you’ve had since you were inspired by the beginning of 2014 to start a journal. It has a hodge podge of pages that are random attempts at the following: gratitude lists, stream of consciousness, and a bad poem you wrote after a break up you were STILL not over (just me? oops). You wonder how high the chances are that you will set off the fire alarm if you try to burn that page.
You sat down, what for again? Oh right—to write down a brand new list of New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Nevermind the fact that this notebook was part of a short-lived attempt at a resolution in the first place. What will this new year be full of?
When I sat down to write things down that I WOULD do, DAMMIT for the next year, I looked back at the promises I’d made to myself in the past: promises to care more about health, or faith, or kindness, or accomplishment. Some things really did get better or got done, but many of the ones that were most important to me didn’t. Why?
First of all, maybe I just really am not built to ever be able to do a pull-up. That’s under consideration for this year.
More importantly, my resolutions in the past were for a fictional person. This new person would pull a reverse Cinderella—when the clock struck midnight, she would drop any bad habits or unfortunate coping mechanisms and suddenly pick up the habits that it takes other people months and years to build. But God, planning to be a new person is so fun—and you can use those colored pens you forgot you had.
As fun as the planning is, it’s less enjoyable when the big plans you make never pan out, because you never created a way for them to pan out. I, at least, would create resolutions that didn’t take into account that I would get tired, or frustrated, or sick, or be a human. None of that was allowed in the new year! Either-Or logic would then take over: either I stick to this perfect new way of existing, OR I get discouraged by messing up once and quit the whole thing by January 5th.
I write all this because I think this is a common experience. In the words of my boy St. Paul: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
(Literally never has a saint been more relatable. I will fight about this one.) While I think the not doing what we want to do thing is a common part of the human experience, I also think knowing this about ourselves can help us make resolutions towards being better that fail less. If we plan for failure, at least we won’t be scared of it. If we plan for the fact that we are a bit scatter-brained, then when we are lost and confused by our big ideas, we will know it’s okay. If we see the problem coming, then we are much less likely to give up when it comes.
This year for resolutions, I am making a plan for who I already am, not who I want to be someday. And instead of saying “I will do x, y , and z for the next 365 days or die trying”, I want to say “What is a choice I can make today, this week, this month that will help me towards the good things I want to live out?” Instead of making a rigid plan that I will almost definitely end up not following within one week, I’m going to treat the process like trying to unlock a safe: listening and trying to find the click when I hit the right number, keeping what works, and moving on methodically to the next thing. Logistically, this means is I am going to try to do better and keep track of three small habits a month. I will try to learn what works and what doesn’t, what brings joy and what definitely does not (will be writing on this more in the future!).
My only real resolution is this: to sit next to the smelly and ugly fact that perfection is not possible this year. I’m going to try to give that fact a big embrace, and then introduce it to my other favorite fact for 2018: just because you will never be perfect, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your hopes a grand, ugly, and perhaps successful try.