Consider the Low-Stakes New Year’s Resolution
Instead of trying to embody a Pinterest vision board, I am lowering my standards of self-improvement for 2024. Here's why.
My plan is to be marvellously mediocre. Allow me to explain.
The 2024 New Year’s resolution season is here, an annually designated period to refresh one’s life and usher in some better habits. In theory, this is good. But when it comes to setting goals, I tend to bite off more than I can chew. That is why, in 2024, I am abandoning flashy, epic intentions in favour of something a lot less interesting: the low-stakes New Year’s resolution list.
These underwhelming tasks are so laughably achievable that labelling them as pillars of self-improvement feels silly. For instance, among my to-dos is the goal of reading a couple of pages of a book per night. (That’s just two to meet my quota; anything more is going above and beyond and will warrant extra self-congratulation. See how this works?)
Another big (to me) mission is cooking dinner once a week, a concept I view loosely and forgivingly. Anytime a stove is involved in the process of nourishing myself, I have achieved said goal (and yes, store-bought sauces absolutely count). Next, I aim to pick up the guitar that’s gathering dust in my room and pluck its strings for 30 minutes a week.
These goals are little. Unambitious. Some might even say pathetic! And that’s what makes them perfect. Listen, I’d love to implement sweeping lifestyle changes and stick to them. Reliably putting my phone away an hour before bed? Journaling every morning as the sun comes up? Eating three balanced meals a day? Glorious! But I know myself; I know where this idealized path leads.
I’ve found that trying to cram in a multitude of profound transformations all at once inevitably fails, setting off a domino-effect of feeling uninspired. I’m also learning that self-improvement is not linear, and no amount of brag-worthy betterments will save me from sometimes feeling lost. So, instead, I’m inching bit by bit, at the pace resembling a small snail, to make changes — nay, tweaks — that will serve me long-term.
I first used this strategy in 2023. I went to pilates just once a week, a task that first felt intimidating but is now a comforting highlight of my routine. (If you’re in Toronto or Vancouver, I can’t recommend Jaybird Studio enough.) I also resolved to care less about clothing rules, which is something I’m still working on but made progress with. (Who knew ditching pants for a day could be so enlightening?).
Instead of devoting all my energy to meeting life-altering quotas, my silly little goals allow me to feel accomplished, and leave more time to engage in frivolous pursuits; the best kind!
If you, too, feel overwhelmed by the looming New-Year-New-Me pressure, let your next 12 months be filled with menial objectives. By checking something basic off your list each day, you get the serotonin hit of a job well done — even if all you did was read three pages of a novel and sauté some onions.
The beauty here is that there is no big test; no monumental finish line that, if missed, will make all related efforts feel fruitless. Realistically, my journal will still sit on my bedside table unopened for days at a time. I will doomscroll, and regret it, and repeat. There are certainly more cobbled-together rat-snack dinners awaiting me in the future.
But as I take on the next 365 days, I am comfortably working towards being the person I want to be without forsaking who I am right now. Who knows, maybe this will be the year that I cook my way through a cookbook. Or, perhaps I will discover but one (1) great new recipe. The way I see things, that’s more than I had last year.