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The anti new-years resolution

04 January 2023

Acknowledging, accepting and embracing failure

The anti new-years resolution

I don't have a new year's resolution. I have a new way of thinking. Previously, like so many others, I spent new years eve reflecting on the past year, thinking about my grand goals and feeling a sudden rise of hope that the next year would be better than the last.

On two occasions, I also had a sinking feeling that the following year would be devastatingly life-altering, and I feared the challenges those years would bring. I spent those evenings dreading what the year had in store and wishing I could sleep through it all. But this new year's eve, I felt indifferent. I read other people's closing statements of excitement and hopes for their futures and felt a sense of naivety; for them and my previous self. I felt neither hopeful nor defeated. Instead, I concluded that the new year has not and would not contribute to my happiness or affect whether I achieved my goals. With that disappeared the blind elation that rose with expectations from the 'new year, new beginnings' way of thinking.

Whilst this feels slightly off (and more cynical than usual), I am grateful that I no longer feel a hype of hope that is often followed by cripling disappointment and self-hate from the failure of achieving the unrealistic goals I would set as part of my new year's resolutions. Though I miss it and wish I felt as driven as I did in previous Januarys', I am proud of myself for reaching this new stage of my recovery. For this year, I am instead feeling more realistic. This year will be the "year of realism"—the year I changed my thinking about goal setting and failure.

Whilst failure existed in all previous years, for the first time, I'll be working on giving myself permission to acknowledge, accept and experience failure with self-compassion. This will not be a temporary or permanent "New Years' Resolution". I've finally learned the real path to success is not linear; as I once thought, it is dynamic. It includes more than hard work. It contains peaks and troughs, failure, challenge, disappointment and determination. And it might take years to master this, and I'm finally OK with the fact I might never achieve it. I've come to discover that the pressure of being unable to accept failure was what was holding me back from success in the first place. And it's not goal-setting that I need; this year, I need 'anti-new-years-resolutions' - this year, I need to work on failure. 

While spending a year thinking about failure seems quite pessimistic, I am excited about this transition. I'll finally put my past failures to rest and look for a way to stop failure from controlling me, my emotions, and my future goals. I am not exactly welcoming failure, but instead hope that if I can accept failure more gracefully, in future, I'll:

  • Set more realistic future goals
  • Feel less disappointment
  • Be more accepting
  • Have more control over my negative emotions, and thusly:
  • Spend less time on things that drain energy and more time on actually achieving my goals

It's strange to imagine my life-long goals now. I feel relieved. They used to kick and turn and swirl around each other as though competing in a ballroom dancing show, hoping they'd get the greatest score for best footwork, highest jump or biggest smile. These goals were desperate to win just a few days ago, and it was hard to decide which was most worthy of my attention. Now, the music has slowed, and they have all taken it upon themselves to wait in the shadows of the ballroom's edges so that a new, unexpected, single goal could emerge, take centre stage, and quietly shine. And I'm comforted that my primary goals have permitted me to disregard them for a while.

Whilst everyone else may be setting themselves new years resolutions. For the first time, I am not. I am not deciding to do something or not do something. But instead, I am simply changing how I think so that I may welcome a more balanced and less stressful way of living, making this  'year of realism' a long-term reality.