It's that time of year again -- every friend, relative and magazine is telling you that you need to make some New Year's resolutions, because a new year means a new you, right? There are a number of problems with this: Firstly, you may be so fabulous that you don't need or want to change any aspect of yourself. If you're happy with the way your life is, that's great -- and you don't need to feel pressured to lose weight, improve your appearance or spend more time with friends you don't really like that much.
Secondly, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to make drastic life changes in January. In the northern hemisphere, January is a cold, dark and depressing month, and the last thing I need is to be expected to get through it without chocolate or whatever else I have over-optimistically given up. New Year's resolutions are also usually yearlong goals, and for most people, this can be too daunting, which just leads to failure. I have given up on the "get healthier" resolutions, and have tried to make smaller, more achievable goals like "walk up the stairs when possible," which is made drastically easier by a phobia of elevators.
Another possible alternative which, sadly I only thought of today, is starting to act on my resolutions at the start of December, which would prevent the unavoidable sense of failure felt on December 31 when you realize that you didn't even manage to stick to one goal you made a year ago. I had wanted to read one novel a week, so if I'd at least managed to read four books this month, I'd feel slightly better. The same goes with "get healthier: style resolutions -- small changes are always going to get you further than "don't eat chocolate, sugar or pizza" resolutions, which despite my best efforts, I always manage to break by breakfast time on January 1. A nice idea is to make monthly goals in order to achieve something bigger which could seem daunting at first -- this works well with learning a new language, because you can aim to learn a certain number or words or phrases per week, and this builds up quickly over a number of months.
As my New Year's resolution this year is not to make any, I have decided to take up a skill instead, which I feel has more of a positive spin than aggressively cutting something I love eating out of my diet. My goals for 2015 are to learn a new language and go to more exhibitions, and I am keeping my definitions of "learn" and "more" purposefully vague to avoid any feelings of disappointment when I enter 2016 a year from now, having visited two exhibitions and learnt four words of Portuguese.
It is probably also worth remembering that despite what popular culture tells us, you don't need to wait until the New Year to make drastic life changes. If there is something you want to do to improve yourself or your life in general, you can start at any time. It's just probably best to take things slowly and make small-scale goals to avoid returning to square one after a couple of weeks.