The New Year fallacy AKA why I never make resolutions…

It’s the eve of a new decade and I’m entering it as I intend to live it; sat on my arse in my pyjamas binge-watching a new Netflix series.

I am partly joking of course. I’ll probably get dressed at some point in 2020, for work at least.

As I took down our Christmas tree I got to thinking about what the next 12 months might have in store, along with the concept of resolutions and why people make them; in between gently batting the cat away from the boxes that were about to become home to our decorations for the next 11 months.

Personally, I have never seen much point in making a promise to yourself that you’ll do something within a 12-month window. Whilst I think we can all agree that it’s great to have goals, the primary question I have is why has that person resolved to do something that they’ve shown no interest in or made no effort to attempt before simply because a new year is approaching?

As with many ‘traditions’ you can trace that of resolutions back to a religious festival. Akitu, a 12-day religious festival held by the ancient Babylonians over 4,000 years ago, saw them welcome a new king or reaffirm their loyalty to an existing one, whilst at the same time making promises to the pagan gods in the ‘knowledge’ that they’d be rewarded for keeping them.

Whilst ancient people made promises to pay back debts or return goods they’d borrowed, modern-day resolutions seem to be rooted in self-improvement rather than altruism, with some of the most common being losing weight, exercising, learning a new skill or saving money.

One of the great things about having free will is that you can choose to follow your own path at whatever time you like, regardless of the day, month or year.

Once you’ve grown up and left the apparent safety of your parents’ house you rapidly begin to realise that no-one is going to do the work for you. Life is about meeting challenges head on, dealing with difficult circumstances, pushing yourself and finding out how much you’re truly capable of – none of which is anywhere near as valuable if someone else is doing the work for you (in my humble opinion).

For me, the most valuable ‘resolutions’ are those which have a positive impact not just on your own wellbeing but that of those around you and are not confined to being made (and ultimately broken) within the first few weeks of the year. Not in a ‘let’s do something great for someone and tweet about it’ way, but with a genuine sense that you want to be the best person you can be whilst making someone else’s day a little more pleasant.

Well over a year ago now I began taking Fluoxetine; a form of antidepressant which can also be used to combat anxiety. I had reached a point in my life where existing day-to-day had become equally as stressful as facing a crisis at work and I was acutely aware that those feelings were not at all normal or manageable in the long-term.

My biggest problem was taking things to heart whilst failing to realise that not everything is said and done with the aim of upsetting me personally.

On the flip side of course, there’s also the fact that when you’re in a depressive pit it’s often hard to see beyond the realms of your own crapulence to acknowledge that there are people around you going through their own shit. In the middle of one such depression session when conversing (and crying) to a friend about all the things that were troubling me (admittedly after a few drinks) she said something that stuck with me.

“It’s not always about you.”

Although at the time I remember feeling as if she wasn’t understanding my perspective, with time reflect on those words I realised that I was viewing everything entirely from my own point of view, without giving any real consideration to why I was feeling what I was feeling and whether or not it was rational.

The past decade has brought many things. New jobs, new friends, travel, pets, marriage, taking a step on the property ladder; but most of all it has brought a newfound ability to look beyond my personal issues and consider others.

I don’t believe in ‘new year’s resolutions’ but I do believe that you can make the effort every day to be a better person simply by making the time for other people and hopefully, in turn, giving support where others need it.

Here are some examples of things you can do every day that have nothing to do with eating fewer chocolates…

  • Be a better listener – make time to listen to other people and be present for the conversation. Don’t feel the need to tag your thoughts and opinions onto the chat either unless you think they’re wanted
  • Be helpful – do favours for other people wherever you’re able, without any expectation of reward or feeling the need to mention it every ten minutes
  • Be open to a new perspective – don’t instantly dismiss an opinion just because it’s not your own
  • Be kind – an oldie but goodie

However you might be spending this most underwhelming of evenings, I implore you to be carefree, happy and for goodness sake – leave the resolutions to the ancient Babylonians.

I’ll see you all next decade.


Author: Alyssa

PR professional. Comedy enthusiast and cat lady.

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