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Are You Making Your New Year's Resolutions Too Hard?

If you're gearing up for a happy new year in 2013, start off on the right foot by giving yourself a break when it comes to setting personal goals.

Every New Year's Eve, I sit down with my journal and write out a list of New Year's resolutions — and every New Year's Day, I start out with the best of intentions.

But then I begin to forget about the list, and by the time I gather up the courage to revisit it, after a month or two, most of the goals I set for myself have fallen by the wayside.

The problem, I have discovered, is not necessarily my lack of resolve or weakness of will power. The problem is with the list itself.

For a start, I usually give myself between eight and 15 goals, which is far too many to even remember let alone achieve.

Secondly, most of the resolutions are not quantifiable. For example, last year I promised to "connect with friends and family more often," "write from the heart," and "be more imaginative." Did I achieve these things? Who knows? It's not easy to call it a victory.

Thirdly, the goals that are specific tend to set the bar too high. On Dec. 31, 2011, I set the goal to "cycle every day" in 2012. I quickly realized that this was impossible. Sometimes I'll have a flat tire. Sometimes there will be torrential rain. Sometimes I will be sick with the flu.

Finally, there are "repeater" resolutions that show up year-to-year. Lose weight. Be more organized. Weed the yard every weekend. These are the kind of resolutions that set you up to fail before you've even started.

And who wants to start the new year a failure?

So, in retaliation against resolutions, this year I created what I call the "impossible to-do list," which is a list of all the things I want to do in my life — but am labelling "impossible" to take the pressure off. It's reverse psychology, I guess. These things include: learning Spanish, writing a novel, freelancing for The Guardian and The Atlantic, recording a folk album, paying off my student loans, learning to type (yes, I know — I'm a journalist who types with three fingers), taking aerial dance classes and road tripping across America. Since these things are "impossible," there's no time limit, no judgement and no guilt — just dreams the way they should be: pure and simple. If they come organically, they come. If not, no big deal.

I have only one New Year's resolution for 2013: to give myself a break.

After all, life is hard. It's full. It's complicated. As a friend said, "my New Year's Resolution is to not disappoint myself."

Cheers to that.

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? How does your resolution hold up when it comes to keeping them? Do you make them too hard or intentionally easy? Share your thoughts experiences in the comments below.

Jed December 29, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I hereby resolve to TRY AND AVOID PURCHASING anything made in china whenever possible (which is not always possible). I hereby CONTINUE to uphold my previous resolution to not SPEAK, WRITE, of READ the name of, nor LOOK AT, LISTEN TO or SUPPORT that IDIOT pretending to be president.
Sean B December 30, 2012 at 08:19 PM
The last resolution I ever made was the only one I ever kept. My resolution was to never make another resolution.

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