After a year like 2020, which has been likened to a dumpster fire in more than one social media meme, a lot of us probably feel that trying to make plans or set goals for the new year is pointless. Why bother, right? We already know that next year isn’t going to magically and immediately be wonderful.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to leak into 2021 for at least the first several months, if not longer, and the political and social unrest our country has struggled with isn’t likely to disappear any time soon either. We are struggling through what is, for many of us, a strange and lonely holiday season, alongside job loss, financial concerns, and worries over the health of both ourselves and our loved ones.

Yet despite all of this, here I am, making my list of goals and aspirations (which always sounds better to me than resolutions) and looking forward to 2021 with my usual sense of optimism and anticipation.

A New Beginning

For as long as I can remember, New Year’s has been my favorite holiday. Even as a child, it surpassed Christmas or my birthday insofar as excitement levels. The idea of a brand-new year, clean and white, like a blanket of fresh snow across my life, just waiting for me to make my mark in the world? The possibilities were simply endless!

With all that anticipation and excitement, it’s no surprise that I’ve always been big on New Year’s resolutions. My resolutions list usually starts coming together in December, and we aren’t just talking about a few half-hearted mental notes for things I might accomplish during the next year. My yearly resolutions involve multiple hand-written lists with deep dives into my plans for personal growth, accomplishments, and ways to improve my life.

There are headers and subheaders, bullet points, alternate goals for the resolutions that might not pan out, sidebars with inspirational quotes to keep me focused, it’s…complicated, to say the least, and probably sounds a little exhausting. But it is always such a clarifying moment for me, closing the door on one year and moving onto the next. Road Map

A Road Map for the Year

People often say they don’t see the point of resolutions, that it’s setting yourself up to fail, and you’ll end up feeling less-than and hopeless when one more year goes by that you didn’t accomplish your goals. And I get that, I really do. But for me, making resolutions isn’t just a way to document what I hope to accomplish in the following year, it’s a manifestation of who I am and who I want to be.

Similar to vision boards, where you compose a collage of pictures, quotes, photos, etc. that illuminates all your aspirations for your career and personal life, New Year’s resolutions create a visual display of how you want your year to go.

The Power of Vision

Visualization, which has successfully been used by athletes for years as a method to improve their performance, has been found to have similar effects when we use it in other areas of our lives. And while we do still have to work for what we want, visualizing the way we want things to go can help stimulate creativity, give us a sense of purpose, and improve our general outlook. Setting goals for the new year and writing them down isn’t really any different, it’s just another way of expressing our hopes and dreams.

My resolutions aren’t just about the usual things we resolve to do, like losing weight (okay, sometimes it might be about losing weight) or accomplishing more with our careers. One year I made the goal to do one new thing every month. It didn’t have to be a big thing, but it had to be something I’d never done before, something that pushed me, even a tiny bit, outside of my comfort zone. Whether it was going for a hike in a new place, trying a new food, or traveling to a destination I’d never considered, I told myself that trying new things would help me grow as a person. Even though I might have skipped a month here and there, I still found myself doing things like attending a Bikram yoga class (loved it!) or going to a medieval string quartet performance (not so much.) I expanded my experiences and in doing so, I also expanded my mind, and had some fun along the way. Which is really what it’s all about.

Manageable Goals and Expectations

Rather than strict, unattainable resolutions, think about what will feed your heart, and your soul. Instead of vowing to lose 10 pounds, tell yourself you’ll try to cook new and different things, maybe a new recipe once a week. Don’t berate yourself for not being high-brow enough and determine that you need to read all the classics in 2021, just say you’ll try to read a new book once a month, any book, or that you’ll at least finish the one sitting on your nightstand at some point during the year.

If you’re determined to further your career or find that perfect relationship, temper that with the thought that you’ll take a class in a field that interests you, or reactivate your profile on that dating site, even if you never respond to a single message from anyone on there. Resolutions don’t have to be all or nothing, and they don’t have to be about achieving perfection. They only have to be about taking steps, finding those moments where you see a glimmer of something different in your life… Something good… Something new.

I know 2021 isn’t likely to be perfect, and I know that the issues of 2020 are going to linger long after we close the books on it. But that promise of a New Year, a new me, new plans, new dreams, inspires me and keeps me going. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we have to keep going, we can’t give up hope, and while that image of new fallen snow might look a little more like slush this year, 2021 is coming and I’m not giving up on it, or myself.

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About Jody Ellis

Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and social justice. She is currently part of a fellowship with Community Change, a non-profit focused on writing about social policies that impact low-income families. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.

View all posts by Jody Ellis

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