Every ending is a new beginning.
⁓ Marianne Williamson
January’s almost over.
But when I looked at that first page, most of my boxes remained unticked ⁓
stuff I’d planned to get done before February.
A few opportunities had passed me by.
And I’ve already broken a resolution — no — two.
This is kinda worrying…
Around the world, every new year is welcomed with anticipation and fresh determination. We consider it an annual marker to take stock of our lives, start afresh, and continue our journey with a renewed sense of purpose.
For some of us, there’s a certain ritual to it when we map out our next steps for this new revolution around the Sun. An array of fountain pens and matching inks are carefully selected as heralds to usher in the change. A pristine journal is cracked open — its pages subsequently populated with written plans and promises.
Although making resolutions isn’t restricted to the turning of the year, there’s a sense of ambition and tradition tied to it. The passing of the old year prompts us to reflect on what we have achieved, and to focus on what we still want to accomplish. So there’s that inclination to lay down major goals as the new year begins.
It is invigorating when we embrace possibility this way. Creating personal milestones to aspire for gives us a sense of renewal and hope. It strengthens the belief in our own agency and motivates us to take back the reins of our own lives.
Like the not-so fictional journal entry above, the end of January sees some of us already struggling with our resolutions. This isn’t uncommon. Studies have shown that about 60% of people have abandoned their new year goals by the end of the month.
There are several reasons for this. Part of human nature is being optimistic in spite of personal evidence to the contrary. We continue to make the same commitments in spite of our past results. Another reason is the propensity for making resolutions that focus on grand changes in our lives. We aim for a huge impact, not fully realizing the considerable upheavals and discomfort that major change inevitably brings. A third is the way the goals themselves are framed. Plans are born from the rational, long-term thinking part of our brains. In contrast, our habits are shaped by the more impulsive, short-term oriented part. This is how the brain frees up resources — by putting our daily behaviors on auto-pilot. When our new resolutions challenge our familiar actions, the struggle begins.
When we are faced with this conflict, let’s take a moment to reconsider — what was the underlying reason for our initial goal? Rather than focusing on the results we wanted to achieve, let’s dig a little deeper and determine which of our values motivated this particular goal. Change has its costs. Will we continue to invest personal effort, resources, and time to ensure success?
Another side of human optimism is faith in ourselves — that we can begin again. Resolutions are discretionary and can be modified as the need arises. Therefore, we can tailor them to be more specific. This attention to detail helps us realize the change as it happens. Being relevant is likewise important. Our goals should truly matter as this strengthens our willpower to push on. We can make them more achievable by breaking them down into more manageable mini-goals. Resolutions that are measurable and time-related also help provide structure and feedback with regards to progress.
When it comes to unfulfilled long-term goals, another way to move forward is by letting go. So much importance has been placed on perseverance and accomplishment that abandoning goals is traditionally perceived as failing. Psychologists focusing on motivational science have proposed the alternative of goal disengagement. This relates to principal goals which direct our lives or determine our identities. The question then is — how long do we persist in trying to overcome obstacles?
Determining goals and breaking barriers are important to our well-being. Issues arise when continuing our efforts becomes detrimental or impractical. Adaptability comes into play when we choose to abandon goals that no longer work for us — to make room for new ones that are more meaningful and sustainable. Persistence versus resilience, or both. How we balance these greatly affects our mental and physical health.
Let me give a more concrete example. As fountain pen enthusiasts, a common and recurring goal is getting that particular grail pen. To achieve this, several factors are considered —
What do you value about this pen? Why is this fountain pen grail-worthy? In my opinion, one of the essential aspects of a grail pen is its personal significance. Another determinant is the long-term experience that other fountain pen enthusiasts have with it. Since aesthetics and usability are important to me, form and function are paramount.
Ways and Means
What resources (read: budget) are available to you? Where and how can you get your grail? Consider several logistical options — such as availability of stocks, competitive pricing, customer service reliability, and time frame. This is where some shopping savvy comes in. Personally, I like to take advantage of promotions and discounts.
In the event that your goal of getting that grail turns out to be an improbable task — I hope you take comfort in the lessons learned during your quest. Remember, you can always begin again with wisdom under your belt. And part of the journey is the thrill of the chase.
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Written by @lekzumali
Check out her musings on Instagram!