A New Year’s Resolution You Might Actually Keep

“Trying is the first step to failure.”


I don’t care much for New Year’s Resolutions. The idea of sitting down to make a list of things I must or must not do. Frankly it makes me want to jam a pen in my eye. (Which would, incidentally, be less painful than watching as I inevitably fail to stick at any of them.)

My feeling is the exercise is more about indulging false hopes than it is about setting specific, measurable goals. Where we end up writing out these fairy-tale type lists. Where we say that this year we’re finally going to become the perfect version of ourselves – the person we were always meant to be.

Instead of coming to terms with who we actually are and the hand we’ve been dealt. Instead of appreciating what we have and accepting what currently is. Instead of taking stock and reflecting on the painful lessons of the previous year.

Instead, we make the same mistake by charging head first into the new year – setting our expectations sky high and then… BAM! 

2020 (and then 2021) smacks us in the face with a baseball bat (or a cricket bat if you’re British).

The question then becomes, what’s left?

What’s left when your identity as a super high-achieving what-the-fuck ever comes crashing down to earth? When all your goals, aspirations and plans go out the window? When your partner leaves you? When your career is left in tatters? When close relatives or friends pass away? When your own health deteriorates and you become wholly dependant on others?

What’s left?

That’s what’s happened hasn’t it? For so many of us over the past couple of years. It’s forced us to ask some very difficult questions. To come to terms with difficult life circumstances out of our control. To think deeply about our relationships and our careers. About the values that define us.

In my eyes that’s what this time of year should be about. Not about how you’re going to have a rippling 6 pack or a fat bank account. But about reflection. Looking deeply at both how you have lived up the values you say you hold dear and in what ways you have failed. And then from there, looking to course correct. Using the valuable lessons of the past year to steer your ship.

Goals are then meant to be an expression of those values. Of who are at your core. The version of yourself that makes you feel whole. That makes you feel integral. They should change throughout your lifetime as you evolve. They should move depending on your unique life circumstances.

Goals are, at the end of the day, simply something to shoot at. The results of which matters far less than the process – than the the actions that you take everyday. That define you as a person. That are based on an increasingly clear set of values or overarching principles that have strengthened over time. That help to keep your head above the water when all else fails. When shit hits the fan and all that you’re left with is a fat waistline and zero dollars (thanks pandemic).

Now, here’s the trick that nobody taught you.

The moment you tell yourself in absolute terms you have to do something, you’re going to resent doing it. You’re going to hate it. A bit like telling yourself you can’t have sex until you get married – you’re going to be thinking about it your whole life until you do. Not only are going to hate doing or not doing that thing, you will become tied to it. Your self worth will become entirely dependent on whether or not you stick to that resolution or achieve that goal. And if you fail, well, you’ll probably feel like jamming a pen in your eye.

The truth is you don’t have to do anything. With the exception of breathing, sleeping and eating, you don’t have to do shit. Nor should you think in those terms. The language you use matters. You don’t have to write in a gratitude journal. You get to. You don’t have to be part of saving the planet for our children. You get to be. You don’t have to eat your vegetables or go for a run at 5am (you definitely don’t have to do that). You get to live a healthy lifestyle.

So, this year, instead of listing resolutions you feel you must keep, maybe you should refuse to write any. That way the habits you want to form might actually stick. That way, more importantly, it won’t matter so much if they don’t.

After all tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow, thankfully, is another year.

I’m curious to get your thoughts on resolutions. Should we even have them? Are specific measurable goals the way to go? What about being clear about our values?. Let me finish by saying it’s been an absolute pleasure connecting with all of you on PO this year. To each and every one of you – for lifting me up, for making me think, for challenging me, for everything… thank you!

I wish you all a very happy New Years ahead.


You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

57 thoughts on “A New Year’s Resolution You Might Actually Keep

  1. I also refuse to take part in New Year’s Resolutions because they’re thought up when we are feeling down about something rather than positive.

    1. That’s a good point. I think making goals needs to be done with a clear head. Facing our current reality is much more important than planning for a better future. It starts with now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙏

  2. Agree that New Year’s Resolutions are basically useless or counterproductive.

    Studies have shown that approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail and many of people over the years have written about new approaches needed to achieving our big goals and resolutions, including naming them differently, approaching them differently and viewing them differently.

    1. Interesting – although 80% doesn’t surprise me. We place an inordinate amount of hope on resolutions and the outcome of goals. Yet we don’t spend nearly enough time practicing gratitude for what we have and appreciating what we’ve already achieved. We will always have issues if we don’t learn to first accept what is before moving on to make things better.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you a very happy new year 🥳 🙏

  3. I like the idea of shifting the language of self-talk. A course I took years ago about becoming a better student taught us to “love our problems” to defeat fear of certain subjects, in my case math. It worked! Sounds a bit self-deluding, but you can trick the brain to a degree simply by changing language you use.

    1. I think it sounds great – “loving our problems” is genius. My feeling – part of the problem we have today – is everyone is living in fear of the future. But we won’t rise to the challenges we need to if we don’t embrace that future. Of course will all have to change for it but far better to love and even enjoy those changes when they comes than trying to resist. Thinking that we get to change for the better instead of having to change has evening to do with that. We get to protect others by wearing masks. We get to be part of a United global effort to fight this pandemic and climate change. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you a happy end to the year and an infinitely brighter 2021 🙏

  4. I tend to think January is a bad time to set goals. In my experience you just need to get on and build some momentum to start achieving a goal, and in the Northern Hemisphere it’s generally the darkest, dampest and most miserable month – not overly conducive to hitting the ground running. I like to set goals around Easter instead.

    1. It’s an interesting point you bring up. I read recently that suicide rates actually spike in the spring – not the winter like many believe. I wonder if that might be an antidote of sorts. Starting the year – at least mentally speaking – in the spring. I like to use this time of the year to reflect rather than set outlandish goals. I often review and tweek my longer term goals in the summer (not dissimilar) Thanks for your comment and making me think 🤔. Happy new year 🙏

  5. Love this AP! I’ve always felt it was a bit hypocritical to all of a sudden “today” is going to be different than any other day this past year…”Today I’m finally going to get it together.” To me, it’s seems disingenuous and unrealistic. Rather, I’ve found it helpful these past couple years to actively write or list some things I’m grateful for that happened that day. I’m looking forward to doing more of this in 2021, and as a butterfly effect, things will start to fall into place. Thanks for this reminder to not be too hard on myself 🙂 Cheers to 2021!

    1. Thanks Ellen! Indeed – I believe the exercise makes us feel better for a while – but are often overly ambitious/too vague. Of course if (when) we fall short we end up feeling worse about ourselves. Setting daily goals and to-do lists/course correcting as the year progresses works best for me. Above all – dealing with life as it stands today – and definitely agree with you about having a gratitude journal. Has made a big difference to my well-being. Cheers to 2021 indeed 🙏😊

  6. Hey there, and Happy New Year! I get to make derpy comments on your lovely posts; who could ask for more? 🙂 Liked the post, and of course I want to throw in a drachma or two, mostly because I’ve just had too much chocolate and anything could happen.
    Resolutions have their root in in ‘resolve’ which is to ‘finish with something’, so it makes sense to me to use them to take stock of the previous year’s accomplishments. Sometimes just getting out of bed is an accomplishment, and deserves to be noted. So, I like to approach the new year like I’m planting a garden, to be used as a sort of seasonal 12 month map of uncertain expectations. I always plant potatoes though, either real or metaphoric ones. You can never go wrong with potatoes. Metaphorical potatoes to me, are things like paying rent, keeping warm in Winter, Spring and Autumn, and having the real kinds of potatoes on-hand.
    I like to look back and see if I grew in any way during the year, and the answer is usually yes, because it’s really hard to be alive and not grow in some way. I think most of us grew immensely this year, in patience, spiritually, in finding out more about ourselves than we could have known without all this lovely Time for self-reflection. This year has also been eye-opening in they way we all view each other, and the strange notions we’ve developed over the years; assumptions of each others values. It’s been a kind of winnowing.
    As for a six-pack? Puhleeeze. Honey, I have discarded the six-pack and gone full keg, complete with Clydesdale butt! It’s Ok, I love Clydesdales… and chocolate.
    Cheers to 2021!

    1. I love your comments! They’re not derby in the slightest. I love the planting of potatoes analogy. I agree – this is why, I think, when we don’t live up-to our own expectations they can hurt so much. Because we haven’t been spending enough time appreciating all the small wins. The daily actions and triumphs. That’s life! It’s just as important to celebrate those as the bigger win – maybe even more.
      Also, did you say chocolate? I think my New Years goals can wait another day (or year). No-one is going to see me at the beach anytime soon.
      And cheers to 2021 indeed! I look forward to more of your insightful comments on my future derby posts then 🙏

  7. “Nothing changes on New Year’s day.” – Bono, U2

    IMHO, waiting for a holiday to start doing something you need to be doing right now is just kicking the can down the road. Procrastination. Perhaps one is hoping it will eventually get lost in the bushes.

    Nobody waits until New Year to vow to do the things they really want to do. They are already doing the things they judge most important..

    1. Good quote and excellent point. I believe procrastination is about avoiding feelings we don’t want to acknowledge – that certain tasks make us feel. We often write out our to-do lists and feel much better about life. Which is all well and good but not if we then proceed to avoid the things we really should be doing. Our actions say much more about our prioritises than our resolutions – or any list for that matter. Thanks for adding your insights. Hope you had a wonderful New Years 🙏

  8. I think of New Years resolutions like Valentines Day dates: why do we focus on only one day?

    Personal goals can and will change throughout the year, so it benefits us to evaluate and alter them more than once every 365 days. When we are in a committed relationship with someone, we have committed to showing them we love them all year round, not just on the 14th of February. (I have not been in a relationship long enough to speak from experience, but I hope when I am I will show and tell them how much I care every day.)

    I love the way you say to focus on building habits, to help us live a healthy life. These are not obligations but choices we *get* to make. Choose kindness friends.

    Keep on keeping on being awesome AP, and I’ll keep sharing the encouragement you give me with others. Peace.

    1. Cheers Hamish. I agree. Goals are simply something to shoot towards. Something that gets us taking steps in the right direction. Focusing and loving the process is more important than the result.

      And thank you for always taking the time to read my words and leave such thoughtful responses. I really do appreciate your support.

      Peace to you brother 🙏

  9. I love this post, AP2. Such a beautifully written piece that walks us back to what is essential and how to reframe it!

    Such a pleasure being able to connect with you this year. Wishing you the best as you celebrate any, every and all your tomorrows!

    1. Happy New Year Wynne! The pleasure has been all mine. I love your writing! I look forward to reading lots more in 2022 🙏

  10. But, AP2, there’s no law that says resolutions have to be about self-improvement goals with specific targets. They can be reminders, such as “Remember, from time to time, to look for what is positive in your life”, “Remember to express your gratitude”, “Try to smile when you encounter someone”. Whatever works for people. Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year Jane! You’re right – there is no law. Nothing wrong with setting positive reminders or setting specific goals. What I was referring to was the wording. A typical resolution that says we must or must not do something. I feel we often set ourselves up for failure. Then when we do fail, we end up believing we are one (and consequently give up altogether.) I believe the wording is important for this reason. Take it easy Jane. Hope you have a truly splendid 2022. Thank you for your continued support. I really appreciate it. Warmly, AP2 🙏

      1. You are definitely right that we often set ourselves up for failure, AP2. You should keep working at convincing everyone – including yourself – that this isn’t necessary. And/but, part of self-care is setting aside time to focus on things that are important to you, and you alone. Things that you really want to to pursue rather than things you think you ought to pursue. Hopefully those kinds of dreams are resolution-worthy. Happy New Year, AP2.

    1. Hi Cheryl – I wrote this one last year – decided it was worth a repost. A timely reminder. When the inspiration strikes. Hope you have a wonderful 2022 Cheryl. Thank you so much for your continued support. I really appreciate it! Warm regards, AP2 🙏

  11. After nearly 8 decades of failed resolutions, I’ve arrived at one that works for me . . .

    Leave the past in the past, the future in the future, and live life one-day-at-a-time today holding tightly the hand of the only One who knows all three, and needs make no resolutions.

    All the best for all His best to you in your flights through out 2022 AP. Be Blessed!

    1. Live for today first and foremost. Wise words Fred. Thank you so much for all your support this year. Wishing you a wonderful 2022! 🙏

  12. The last new year resolution I set I couldn’t achieve it because I found out that I had a conflict of interests with my job! Since then, I never set one again. But for 2022 I want to become more patient. Maybe we could try to set more qualitative than quantitative goals and adjust them throughout the year (but also months, or weeks). I wish you a fruitful new year, plenty of health and knowledge!

    1. It’s a good question. Recently I read something interesting. It said, instead of setting goals – we should focus on developing skills. Skills that match the identity we wish to embody such as becoming a better listener or living a more healthy lifestyle. By simply focusing on developing a certain skill or identity there is no pass fail associated with it. I thought it was an interesting idea. Wishing you a wonderful new year too Cristiana! 🙏

  13. The idea of a year is a human creation. For animals (which we are at some level) different seasons, if you will, makes a more natural transition worth noting. If you pay attention, you recognize that making choices, decisions, at each moment as that is what really makes a difference. Blah, blah, blah, right?

    1. I understand the motivation of resetting during the start of a new year. I guess mentally we like things to coincide, but I agree – we should pay attention to the habits we make each day – regardless of time of year. Thank you for sharing 🙏

  14. I, too do not set New Year’s Resolutions, because I know I will not be able to get up enough gumption to actually follow through past the second week! So, let the New Year throw everything it can at me, I will throw it right back!

    1. And to you Art! You words have challenged me to look at things from a different perspective. Wishing you a wonderful new year 🙏

  15. I will probably spend most of January sitting back and just seeing where this year is taking me. I saw other people posting stupid goals and had some anxiety over it until I realized my life is a goal enough. I do the best I can each day. I am in the midst of advocacy for those who need it and that’s much more important and gratifying than some superficial self-centred resolution.Thank you for sharing your honest insight. I agree completely!

    1. Focusing on the future is overrated. Focusing on today is underrated. Doing the best we can is all we ever can do. If we really do, the results don’t matter. You can always hold you head high. Thank you for taking the time to read/comment. I appreciate it. 🙏

    1. No worries. I don’t think resolutions are bad actually. I think it’s the language that matters most. So that if we do fail we’re not too hard on ourselves. I like to think in terms of sticking to habits and developing skills more than trying to achieve specific goals. I wish you all the best anyway. Thanks for stopping by 🙏

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