Every new year’s season we face the onslaught of marketing telling us that a “New Year, New You” is possible. A few years ago a friend and I started saying this phrase sarcastically, which then morphed into “New Year, Same Me,” sometimes with a few curse words added in for healthy measure.
As someone who tries to adopt a growth mindset in most areas, I really struggle with both ways of framing the new year. I’m not going to become a “new” person. And I’m not likely to stay the same, either. I hope to grow and change in ways that meet the current challenges and joys in my life. I don’t want to feel “stuck” with my old ways of doing things, but I am not going to be a new person at the stroke of January 1. I’m not going to get fitter, leaner, or smarter at the stroke of midnight.
And yet there is a strong pull to believe that could happen, thanks to the layers upon layers of marketing that tell us it could be so. And then there are the headlines! Oh, the headlines. “It takes 21 days to build a habit” “Resolution-makers unlikely to stick with resolutions” “Resolution-makes do better with habit-building than those without resolutions” and on and on they go, each one contradicting the next.
Here’s what I know about me… your mileage may vary – I like the fresh hope a new week/month/year bring when thinking about habits or changes. I like to pause and reflect on the previous time span, thinking about how I met (or didn’t) meet the goals I put forth, what things brought me joy, and what changes I could make to get more of those experiences. I like to dream up fun ways to challenge myself and new experiences I could share with my loved ones.
I also know it takes me way longer than 21 days to build a habit. The last habit I intentionally adopted took me 6 months to adopt, and another 2 months before it felt like a natural part of my routine. Sometimes I do better with starting on a “new” block of time, but other times I’ll just randomly start a “streak” on a Tuesday afternoon and keep it going for some period of time.
I know I only have the resources to focuses on one or two new things at a time. I cannot drastically increase my fitness time and my writing time simultaneously. I can’t take up a winter outdoor activity without updating some of my outdoor clothing and gear, which may conflict with a “low-spend” resolution. I do better when I can plan some of these conflicts ahead of time. Maybe I’ll do a low-spend period with the exception of outdoor gear updates. Or I’ll decide in advance that I want to prioritize my writing over anything else when I run short of time and/or energy. My brain likes knowing what the plan is before the conflict happens, even if the plan doesn’t always get followed as written.
All that is to say…. I’m both overwhelmed with possibility and exhausted by the same. I’m embracing the quiet and cold season to reflect and rest. I’ve chosen my word of the year (create) but I haven’t really landed on what that means just yet.
How about you? Do you have plans to become a new you? The same old you? A mildly different you? What is your plan for the new year?
Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.