The new year rolls around and as the Weightwatchers adverts start appearing I find myself looking back over my aims from 2020 and wondering what to do next. I try not to fall into the ‘New Year New Me’ thinking but I think it’s natural to have a sense of looking ahead.
That said given everything we’ve all just lived through last year, right now thinking ahead is tricky and feels almost futile. What’s the point of planning anything when we are still living through last year?
I’m aware that a new year actually means nothing, it’s just another turning of a page in a diary, yet pushing all that aside when I focus on how well I held on to the things I aimed to do, I feel proud and content that I created some new habits and held on to them even through the worst days.
Changing habits is hard so I started small:
- Write in my journal every day.
- Meditate for 10 mins every day.
- Stretch every day.
First things first, I knew ‘every day’ was a stretch, I even said so at the time – “I’m presuming I’ll be able to hit the primary aims every day but I know that won’t hold true. Life will get in the way at times and that’s ok, I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens” – so it’s heartening to look back and see that I managed to stick with these more often than not, good enough to meet the larger goal of forming new healthy habits that have stuck.
I guess that was the point of these being aims and not goals, and whilst it may just be a trick of language, it still allowed me to be more than happy that I was going in the direction I wanted to, as the destination was never really the point. Having these as aims removed the pressure and any (self) perceived sense of failure that could’ve landed if I’d stated them as definitive goals. It’s a subtle trick but one which let my perfectionist brain be ok with not marking things complete every single day.
Throughout 2020, as the world changed around us, I found these three things to be very grounding and they’ve definitely played a big part in maintaining my mental health throughout lockdown and beyond. The intention was to create some good habits around things I knew would benefit me, little did I know in January just how crucial and helpful they would turn out to be.
Equally they’ve helped me discover more about who I am, and helped me listen to myself more and put more trust in my own values. That has, in turn, let me start to relax and take on new challenges, things which in the past I’d have set out as goals and built plans around and likely have failed at meeting, but as these are a knock-on effect of the aims then I feel much more relaxed about them, letting myself take my time as I know that just doing them is all that matters, the achievement will or will not arrive, and that’s ok.
Looking ahead at the coming year, and presuming that it will continue to be a year full of challenges, the usual hopes and fears remain but I already know that these three habits will remain as a foundation to build on. It feels good to finally have gotten them bedded in, habits that are now part of who I am, and how I define myself. I am a person who writes in a journal, who meditates, and spends time stretching every day, and I feel better for it.
So what lies ahead in 2021 then? What are my aims?
The short answer is I have no aims I am looking to achieve in 2021.
As I said at the top of this post, not only does it feel futile to set out aims or goals given we have no real idea of when things will return to any kind of pseudo-normality (personally I doubt it will be this year if at all) but I managed to get through 2020 without anything more specific than the aims I’ve already mentioned so why push to set new ones?
There is an argument that, as arbitrary as it is, even using the change of year is a good marker if one is so inclined as to look at the self as a thing that can be gently improved day to day, month to month, and year to year. A new year means one cycle is complete, so it’s time to start another. What I have learned this past year, outside of anything I aimed to do, was that by freeing up my mind and attention I ended up doing a lot more for myself than I have for a long time. I’m running again, I’m cycling regularly, I’m eating well, my mental health is good, my relationship is good, and I might even dare to suggest that I’m starting to love myself for who and what I am. All of that from a language shift and an ability to trick my own brain into allowing part of my aims to be negotiable.
As an example, in my post last year I mentioned that my long standing goal to run a 5K was exactly that – it may take me all year, or it might not happen until 2021. I am not putting a time scale on it, but it is where I want to get back to in time – and I whilst I did get to a physio who helped with my knee, I quickly fell away from running during the early weeks of lockdown as I turned to cycling as a preferred method of exercise. Yet in the past couple of months I’ve gotten back into running (I don’t mind running in the cold, hate cycling in it!) and am half-way through the Couch to 5K program and I’m enjoying it all.
If I’d set ‘Run a 5K’ as a goal for last year I would’ve failed it early in the year, likely by getting a small injury, and that would’ve been me. A failure because I didn’t plan/train properly and meh blah ‘what’s the point’? The very negative, self-loathing mindset that I’ve managed to avoid pretty well all year.
Don’t get me wrong, goals can be positive things, I’ve no doubt about that (even if you cheat and game yourself and call them aims) and if pushed I will admit there are three things I want to do this year but they all just feel like extensions of the journey I’ve been on through the last year already.
No I won’t list them here, they are just things that will happen. And if I don’t achieve them for whatever reason, that’s ok too. Which, in turn is probably the one true aim I have for myself this year, the one thing that I’ve been subconsciously building towards throughout last year.
And thus I hereby declare that, in this year of 2021, I will aim to cut myself some slack.
What about you? Are New Year’s resolutions a bunch of nonsense? Did you set some but have already fallen off track? Or are you excitedly progressing yours already? Whatever you choose, I hope that you are good to yourself first and foremost.