I Don’t Believe in New Year’s Resolutions, But I Believe in This Daily One
This time of year the “R” word abounds, always filled with aspiration and yet an impending sense of guilt. Few people keep their resolutions, and most of the time by the end of January, those good intentions have melted away, like the snowbanks by the side of the road, that once shone in pristine white and that have inevitably turned to a wet, grayish mush.
But the reason that resolutions can be so hard to keep is that we put so much pressure on them. Our expectations are high. This is the year I will change! This is the year I will be better!
Those are admirable desires, but when one day out of the year is the day slated for the beginning of all of your enormous life changes, it’s easy to crumble under pressure.
But no one ever said that a resolution had to start on January 1st; that’s just a cultural invention.
Every day you have the chance to make change. It doesn’t matter if you committed to cutting out sugar on January 1st and you slipped on a piece of cake on January 3rd; every single day that the sun rises and you awake, you have the opportunity to do better.
That’s why we need a daily resolution. One that you can start right after you read this. It applies to everyone, and it allows you to go big or remain small.
It’s this: Be better than you were the day before.
“Be better” can seem far reaching, and perhaps too grandiose—the type of thing that you say to yourself and then never do because it’s not a tangible goal—but since it’s a daily resolution, it isn’t just some cliche claim. It’s action driven. You are regular challenging yourself to improve upon the person that you are. There’s no end goal in sight, because ultimately, setting goals isn’t about reaching them, it’s about the process that gets you there.
This daily resolution can be applied to anything in your life. “Be better” can mean responding to a situation in a more positive manner than you did the day before. It can mean taking 10 breaths before acting in a stressful moment. It can mean eating an extra vegetable at dinner. It can mean calling a friend. It can mean not buying a disposable water bottle. It can mean looking at the tag on a piece of clothing to learn where it comes from before you decide to buy.
The reality is that in our world, no one is perfect; there is always something that we can improve upon.
Dramatic change doesn’t happen overnight, unless it’s forced, and “be better than you were the day before” allows us to take the small steps toward the better person that we always envision ourselves becoming.
Last year I read No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. He is a great example of this type of action. If you have read the book or the blog, you will know that Colin went on a path to find a better way to live, a way that had much less impact. By the end he was baking his own bread, sourcing his own food, even replacing coffee with peppermint tea, which he made from leaves grown on his balcony. But that change didn’t all take place over 24 hours. It was an ongoing process, a process of continually identifying the things that he could improve upon.
Challenging ourselves to be better than we were the day before empowers us to embrace every day as a new beginning, but also to use the past as a lesson. We don’t start with a clean slate, but we can continue writing on it in a way that changes the end of the story. We are the authors of our lives after all, and while the universe may throw a curveball or two to change the plot, we are the ones who decide how we work around them.
Slow change is sustainable change, creating habits overtime that remain long-lasting ones. Whether it’s January 1st or June 23rd, there’s always something that you can do to improve on your actions from the day before.
So this year, I challenge you to make small changes. Because small changes inevitably lead to big change, without it feeling like a big change at all.
Originally published on Elephant Journal