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Reconsidering Your Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

When we start making our resolutions for the new year, we tend to focus on practical, “productive” goals. After all, we’re told repeatedly that our goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) in order to work—and even more so, in order to be worthy. Resolutions that are seen as worthy or “good” are losing 20 pounds or gaining more muscle by a certain date. Resolutions that are seen as worthy or good are getting organized, reducing procrastination, earning more money, watching less TV, meditating and eating “clean” (whatever that means).

But what about setting resolutions that help us to have more fun and enjoy more fulfilling days? What about setting resolutions that help us to grow in more meaningful ways than trying to reach a certain number on the scale or a certain number in our bank account? What would happen if this new year you didn’t set any goals around your weight or appearance or fitness level?

What if 2018 was the year you experimented with different writing techniques or took a photography class? What if your resolution revolved around returning to activities you loved as a child like doodling your breakfast and reading books under the covers with a flashlight? What if your resolution revolved around finding magic in your everyday?

What if your criteria for setting resolutions included words like play and art and adventure and relaxation?

We tend to get very serious about our resolutions—even somber. It’s as though the holiday season is the weekend. It’s OK to laugh, play and relax. It’s accepted. It’s acceptable. And it’s as though January 2nd is a Monday, the beginning of the workweek, which means we need to get back on track, on the efficient, useful track. Because relaxing and doing fun things means we’re lazy or immature or not serious about our lives and work.

We tend to make resolutions as a kind of punishment for “indulging” during the holidays. Whereas the holiday season is about abundance, the new year becomes about restriction (e.g., eat less; relax less; eat less sweets, if at all). We feel like we have to rein ourselves in, because supposedly during the holidays we were out of control.

Creative activities are not frivolous or silly or shallow. In fact, these activities can save us. And even if your new drawing habit doesn’t help you grow or learn something interesting or important, it could be a lot of fun. And there’s nothing frivolous or silly or shallow about fun. It might not be a SMART goal. But it’s a worthwhile one. And that’s enough.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash.
Reconsidering Your Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2017). Reconsidering Your Approach to New Year’s Resolutions. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Dec 2017
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