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Why I Make the Opposite of New Year's Resolutions


There’s a guy at the gym that teaches a pretty hardcore fitness class, and it’s always crowded. But me, I stay away, I really dislike his class, even though the workout itself is good.

It’s not just that he does a lot of running (in the workout studio, on the track, outside around the building) which my knees just can’t take anymore. Rather it’s what he shouts out during class. He leads his classes with a military-inspired style, telling you to work harder, push harder, run harder. If he tells you to do 20 pushups, he counts down from twenty to four, three, two, TWENTY ONE, twenty, nineteen. So he gets you to do 40 pushups instead of 20.

I don’t like the trickery.  And he makes me feel as if I’m not measuring up when the fact that I showed up to the gym is already a win in my book.

Me, I’m more inspired by the fitness instructors who say “this is your workout, take it at your own pace” or the ones who offer options so if my knees are feeling creaky that day, I can squat instead of jump and still feel part of the class. Those are the classes I keep going back to week after week, month after month. And one particular class I’ve been going to twice a week for 12 years now! Obviously something’s working there.

The difference between the instructors’ styles is that the first one tries to motivate me to work harder by letting me know that I’m not measuring up. If I feel bad about myself, I’ll try to improve, right?

The other instructors offer a good workout but acknowledge that we’re all in different places on our fitness journeys and don’t make anyone feel bad about it.

So what does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions?

Well, I see that military-style fitness instructor as representing resolutions.  And just as that instructor doesn’t work for me, neither do resolutions.

A resolution by definition is benign enough - Webster’s defines it as “A formal expression of opinion or intention made” or “A decision or determinations” or “The act of determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.”

So strictly by definition a resolution is just a decision to do something.

But doesn’t it seem to have such a more negative connotation?  When I hear the word resolution, I think of all the things I’m bad at, everything I’ve failed to achieve, everything I should improve on.

And really, how motivating is that?

Not very. For me at least.

Or maybe you’re one of those crazy people who like being yelled at and being made to feel inferior. Maybe that works for you. If so, I have the perfect fitness class for you!

But I do try to take some time at the end of the year to think through what I’ve done, what I’m pleased with, what I wish I’d done better, and what I want for the coming year.

The difference, though, is that I set goals for myself.

Is it the same as making resolutions? Maybe. If you consider resolutions and goals statements of intention or decisions, then I guess they really are the same.

But something about the concept of goals seems more positive, more promising, more motivating to me. Kind of like the opposite of resolutions. Goals are something I’m striving for, not something I’ve failed at already, which is how I feel about resolutions.

So in my attempt to kick off each new year in the most positive way, I set various goals for myself. Like anyone else, some I manage to achieve and lots I don’t. But that’s okay.

But having goals to pursue in January feels exciting and challenging, rather than resolutions which feel depressing and obligatory to me.

In my family we all set goals for the new year, and there’s a particular way that we do it. It’s been a really fun and rewarding tradition for us each New Year’s Eve.  Next week I’ll tell you exactly how we do it, and I’ll have a fun customizable print out for you if you want to try it for yourself.

I’m curious, do you make New Year’s resolutions? Or do you set goals? Or do you see them as one and the same?


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