Feeling (20)22: New Year, New Me Resolution Edition
Please note: This was originally posted on my blog at https://www.torimikulan.com/blog/feeling-2022-new-year-new-me-resolution-edition.
Resolution Edition featuring Goals & Habits
I lied. Kind of. I’m not setting resolutions per se. I’m cultivating habits.
Sounds like buzzword bullshit, right?
Many people respond to New Year’s Resolutions with an eye roll and “whatever.” It isn’t without merit; according to the New York Times, more than half of resolutions fail. That is arguably the opposite of encouraging. In an article for Forbes, Prudy Gourgechon shares a study that states approximately 80% of resolutions fail by February.
I get it. You’re probably thinking, “What the hell, Tori? Where is the good idea in this?” But let’s think about this for a second. These articles and studies prove that people are wondering why resolutions fail and how to not fail. So, how can we set up for success when looking towards the year ahead? The saying “people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan” is pretty fitting. I’m going to look at why resolutions fail, how to set yourself up for success, and what my resolutions are for the year ahead.
Psychology of Attempting Change
Why Resolutions Fail
Gourguechon doesn’t mince words when she says, “The psychology behind New Year’s resolutions is faulty.” She explains that they are not structured for motivation that ultimately promotes action and change. Part of this is because our simple resolutions like losing weight actually requires rewiring a complex process within your brain that is stubborn to change whether you realize it or not.
Daniel Wallen’s Lifehack article on why resolutions fail also cites similar psychological reasons for resolution failure. Lack of reasonable planning is a layered reason for failure, but he also points out buggers like not believing in yourself or not defining why you want what you want. Setting resolutions — or any type of attempt at behavioral change — needs a process and a plan.
The resolution may seem simple. Humans are not. We are inherently complex and self-sabotaging when it comes to change and making ourselves uncomfortable.
Resolutions vs. Goals vs. Habits
I know I generally don’t think about the difference between resolutions and goals. Obviously, habits are different but I’m tinkering with habits in ‘22.
- Resolution: The act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action, method, procedure, etc.
- Goal: the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.
- Two definitions for habit fit our purpose: An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: A dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality.
Is some of this splitting hairs? Maybe. According to Gourguechon, New Year’s resolutions generally fit one of three wishes: To stop avoiding something, stop doing something that makes you feel good but isn’t necessarily good for you, or to start doing something that doesn’t come naturally to you. Additionally, she suggests writing down your accomplishments from the previous year which can be a pleasant surprise and help you define your focus for the year ahead.
A common criticism of resolutions is that they aren’t focused enough and are too broad. When discussing whether or not we should bother with New Year’s Resolutions in the Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth Grace Saunders explains that if you do decide to make the plunge, commit to a specific action. Carving out specific time in your calendar to act on that resolution is one tip Saunders suggests. Like Gourguechon and Wallen, she also advises tracking your progress, defining your why, and ensuring you have support as ways to help you achieve your resolutions. Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful if you decide to set New Year’s Resolutions. Or goals. Whatever you want to call them.
New Year, New Me — Not Really
Pretty much from 2018 onward, I have been going through a rough time. This has included:
- A mental breakdown stemming from my job.
- Leg injury that resulted in chronic exertional compartment syndrome diagnosis, three surgeries, limited mobility, lots of pain, undergoing Botox, countless doctors appointments and tests (that also included pain), and loss of athleticism and being able to respond as a firefighter.
- Laid off from job right before the global pandemic began.
- Week-long hospital stay because of severe pancreatitis that was caused by gallstones which were caused by my dead gallbladder, which was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, was a near-death experience according to my doctor, and left me with little memory of the week, but I still get nauseous when I think about it. Unfortunately, I do remember the drain which sucked.
- My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. The diagnosis came about two weeks after our dog very unexpectedly and suddenly passed away.
Also, somewhere in there, my mental illness diagnosis of clinical depression was changed to bipolar depression/bipolar 2.
The reason I’m including this is because over the last couple years, when I’ve tried to look forward to the year ahead, Shit Goes Down. This makes me wary of planning anything anymore in some ways. Hell, even when I try to write a blog post with a “plan” in mind, I end up far away from that plan. So, yes, planning and I don’t have the best relationship right now.
What makes 2021 to 2022 different?
To be honest, I don’t know what is going to make this year different. At least, not definitively.
I am working again, although not full time currently, but I’ve had freelancing opportunities and jobs tick up which is exciting. It might sound weird when I say I wasn’t 100% on a career as a writer until this past year, but for a long time I went from the idea that I’d be happy doing a lot of things (which is true to an extent) to debating on a focus between writing and nonprofit/public administration.
Somewhere there was a lightbulb moment where I thought, yes, I am a writer. I’ve been a writer for a long time. But making that conscious choice to focus on writing was useful. It helped me better define my goals and plan.
I also let myself take a step back, which I think was really important, because from December 2020 to well, now still, my life has been a cluster you-know-what. I had to hit the breaks because my brain was fried in such a way that I wasn’t getting anything done. Probably the most important thing I learned in 2021 was how to not force myself to do things.
I’ve always been a proponent of not forcing writing because I believe it results in really shitty writing and frustration. Instead, if it didn’t need to be done or was a self-imposed thing, I took a step back. Part of this included writing and working on my website. And when I was ready, it really clicked and went well. I’ve been in a reading rut. I don’t force it. I do what I can.
And I think that has helped. This blog post is an example. I’ve really been struggling with blogging lately. I didn’t think I’d get anything out before the year ended. I had this idea. It worked. I went with it. Cool.
A lot of this was actually trying to negate the perfectionism I’ve dealt with my entire life. There has been a lot of self-reflection on my part. But here’s what I’m thinking for 2022.
“Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi,” Luke Skywalker, The Rise of Skywalker AKA my mantra.
For me, it isn’t about resolutions or goals. It is about habits.
Okay! I know, I just spent a page and half talking about setting resolutions and goals and now I’m here saying, “Nah.” But hear me out.
My goal would be to develop better habits, featuring several subjects. If I’m giving 2022 a goal theme, we’re looking at habits and being.
It is also what I’m not declaring. Mentally, between therapy, improved coping skills (primarily meditation), and tweaking my medication, I do think I am at least headed towards a better place. I don’t feel like I’m drowning in fog. It was probably early summer when I was still struggling with self harm and all that, and I haven’t had an urge in quite some time. Even when I was, I got to the point where I could resist it.
Slight spoiler for “No Way Home”:
But think Doc Ock from Happy’s apartment onward. It is relief and peace.
And because of this, I’m specifically not trying to set goals or resolutions that I know may fail by no fault of my own.
I’m talking about my leg. Hopefully, in February, my next round of Botox is my last. I do plan to start private yoga lessons to begin strengthening my leg and body overall because I am ridiculously out of shape. I also spent the better part of three years unable to walk for more than ten minutes without pain.
I have many fitness goals I could set; to run again, to be a firefighter again. I can’t tell you how much I want to be an interior firefighter again. I’ve been told countless times basically, not unkindly mind you, to get over it because there are so many roles I can fulfill within the fire service. Which is absolutely true. But to have it just ripped away from you sucks. I was 26 and suddenly my firefighter career looked like it very well may be over. A lot left unfinished.
But declaring 2022 the year I return to firefighting would be an awful idea. It isn’t reasonable. I don’t know if Botox will fully eliminate pain. I don’t know if it is a risk I can take of possibly injuring myself again. This is the type of resolution that makes you feel like a failure. Avoid these.
Back to themes!
To Be, or Not to Be
One of my themes is “being.” What I mean is practicing mindfulness. I bought a subscription to the Calm app on a holiday deal. I’ve done meditation before, but this app has really helped. I have been aiming to meditate in the morning when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I might only do it for five minutes. But the action still has an impact.
It has been impactful enough that in moments where I’ve wanted to really freak out but there was something else really important I needed to focus on, I could. This has occurred more than once over the last year, specifically. Therapy has helped too, with an emphasis on focusing on what I can control and on staying in the moment. I’m already on track here, but 2022 is about maintaining the momentum.
There is a lot going on in my head at any given time. So the big goal for 2022 would be being more organized. And to achieve that requires better habits.
Kind of randomly, I actually have a couple of freelance clients. I have spent the last couple weeks researching how to best keep all of that organized. A simple example involves notebooks. I have probably at least 20 notebooks. And I don’t really have a great designated spot or system from there. Or designated purpose. This might seem stupidly obvious and simple, but I went through my notebooks the other day and ensured I had a specific notebook for each of my clients / one for one-time assignments. I bought a tray organizer to keep my most important notebooks easily accessible.
It is a start, and that’s better than nothing right?
I don’t have the room right now, but I plan on keeping some type of storage by theme — freelance business, fiction writing, ideas, learning, etc. Hell, I was pleased that I put all my blank notebooks aside and kept them together.
This is really the bullshit that is the combination of depression and anxiety: You don’t have the energy or thoughtspace to keep things organized but your anxiety is through the roof because everything is chaos. So maybe minor, but an organized workspace is one habit I’m looking to maintain throughout 2022.
My So-Called Organized Life
Maybe organized habits is a better theme, now that I’m thinking about it. I want to improve my organizational setup for my VFD admin items, physical and virtual. I won’t get into my fire department goals beyond this one organizational example — I have been working on implementing Google Drive for the department, and I have progress points to complete that.
A good planner is always on my mind at the end of the year, and I just purchased one from Plum Paper. Pricier than what I’ve done for a planner in the past, but I also was able to customize it. I am ridiculously excited for this. But I am picky about how I want my planner set up, and this year I’ve seen a lot of extras thrown in that I didn’t want in my planner, like inspirational and gratitude pages. Which I know sounds kind of awful, but that’s not how I want to use my planner. I want to get things. I have other means of those other things. After I use it for a month or two, I hope to share a review.
There are a lot of facets to developing organized habits, but I hope breaking them down into these smaller goals is helpful. Even things like keeping important papers better organized (or neater organization) is on my list, better budgeting with better financial tracking, that type of thing. I like lists. I have a notebook that is just making lists. Hopefully it helps.
So I may have saved the most important point (in my opinion) for last.
I’m doing what works for me, and I suggest you do too. Or don’t. What the hell do I know?
While, yes, there are tips and actions that are more successful than others, ultimately, it is what works for you.
Success for you probably isn’t the same way I see success. We are complex people which makes us unique.
I saw one suggested New Year’s goal of spending a day without checking any email. I laughed. Because I knew that the ridiculous amount of emails I’d have to look through the next day wouldn’t be worth whatever I was supposed to get out of not checking email for a day.
Frankly, I’m not sure if that is really practical either. Too many important and time-sensitive things can go through email. But maybe it is doable for you.
There are so many articles and courses out there from self-proclaimed experts that claim by doing X, you’ll achieve Y…often lured with the idea of making money, but there’s also a monetary cost to learning the secrets!
And it might not work for you at all.
Ultimately, in 2022, I’m being who I want to be. I’m defining myself. Not what others think I should be doing. Not others telling me my thoughts or feelings are wrong. Not by a blogger who tells me this is the only way to success. Me.
So goodbye 2021, and hello to 2022!