DEAR KRISTIN: I really want to start the new year off right. I intentionally did not make a list of New Year’s resolutions because I always end up falling short, which only makes me feel more insufficient and frustrated. Am I right to step into the new year with a blank slate and no expectations? -- AFRAID OF FALLING SHORT
DEAR AFRAID: I certainly understand the self-imposed pressure that can come with the making of New Year’s resolutions. You know yourself better than anyone: If making a list of resolutions is more destructive and debilitating than it is constructive and motivating, then just don’t do it.
But try not to sell yourself short: Don’t trick yourself into believing that you are without control and that you have no responsibility for charting the future course and direction of your life. From how you’ve written it, it sounds you might have already slipped into a pattern of thinking that absolves you of accountability, and this is a mistake. Here’s what it sounds like you’re saying: “If I don’t set any goals or create any expectations for myself, I’ll never have to worry about falling short of those goals and expectations ... so I just won’t bother with them at all.”
Don’t sell yourself that short.
It sounds like before you even get to the stage of goal-setting, though, you might want to consider taking a few important more preliminary steps. Rather than turning outward to see how you’re going to step into the new year, consider turning inward for some serious self-reflection and contemplation.
Once you’re turned all the way in, do an honest self-evaluation. See who you are at your center. Are you the kind of person, the kind of human being, you want to be? Are there things you would change about yourself? As you look at life from the inside out, are there adjustments you would make to the prism through which you are looking? Are there places within you that feel particularly vulnerable or that cause an emotional disruption within you?
My point, I suppose, is to start on the inside, then work your way out. Only then will you be able to assign any real meaning to the goals and resolutions you might want to set in the future.
If you make any resolution at all, it should be to do a deeper dive into this person that is you. What are you made of? What stands at your center? What do you love most about yourself, and what things would you like to strengthen, hone and nurture?
This kind of self-reflection might also help you get in better touch with why you’re experiencing such self-doubt and inadequacy. Take a deep, grounding breath and turn inward. See what you find. Evaluate what needs strengthening. Only then will you be able to move outward with goals and resolutions and plans with a real sense of meaning and purpose.
You ask why you feel guilty about not making any resolutions. What seems to be weighing on you more than the guilt is the fear of falling short. Don’t let your fear paralyze you or prevent you from charting your course and stepping into the new year with confidence and grace.
This year is yours. It belongs to you. Don’t let it wear you down before you’ve even stepped through its doors.