The Trouble with New Year Resolutions

The trouble with new year resolutions is that they are too easy to break; the trouble is that they tend to be commitments to one aspect of our life, mind or body, when nothing that we are or do happens in isolation from the rest of who and what we are, think and do; the trouble is that they often sound like punishment, or self-aggression, a kind of new year's belligerence towards oneself, so they begin with what we perceive to be wrong with us, rather than finding things that we seek to be more right, more whole, more substantial within us; the trouble is they are demands, and nobody ever made deep-seated and lasting change by being bullied into it.

I prefer the idea of a manifesto.  A manifesto is a public declaration of intentions, opinions or objectives.  The word comes from the late 14c. Old French 'manifest', meaning evident, palpable or clearly revealed, or directly from Latin 'manifestus', meaning plainly apprehensible, clear, apparent, evident.  So it is a good word for a new year, encompassing as it does the idea of public declaration and a setting out of one's intention or objective for the coming year; it also contains within it the sense of making something more clear and I like the idea that we can, through our new year's manifesto, come to know ourselves better and make wiser choices for ourselves, so that we can live better, more wholehearted, more generous and loving lives

Writing a manifesto for yourself means setting out a host of aims for the coming year and this seems to me to be more realistic than the usual one line commitments that have often expired by 1st February. 

In addition, a resolution doesn't always take into account the reasons why we do something, so we end up denying ourselves former comforts without addressing the underlying reasons WHY we indulge in those comforts.  And there is always a reason.  If work is so bad that we need half a bottle of wine every night to unwind, then we should not only be addressing the problem of drinking more than is healthy, but also the reasons why work is so dissatisfying and what we might be able to do about that.  If our aim this year is to run a marathon or climb a mountain, we might ask if we simply enjoy challenging ourselves and whether we have forgotten that aspect of ourselves; do we simply need to nurture that part of ourselves hat enjoys accomplishing daring things and moving outside our comfort zone.

So in a manifesto, the resolution: Lose 2 Stone by 1st June might become:

Choose to eat more healthily this year
Walk to work every day; take the stairs to my office instead of the lift
I don't enjoy the feeling of being overweight and unfit, but I love food - by being wiser with what food I choose to eat, perhaps I can find a way to enjoy it AND lose a little weight.
Think of new ways to reward myself for good days and console myself for the bad ones, rather than reaching for a chocolate bar every day.
Think about why I am unhappy being overweight and how I can be more happy in the skin I'm in rather than seeking to change it.

Or, give up drinking wine during the week, might instead be a commitment to:

Find a new way to unwind after work without reaching for a glass of wine; work is really stressful at the moment and will be for the foreseeable future, but there are other ways to switch off after a stressful day I just need to try a few methods and see what works for me.
Book myself onto the pottery course I've been thinking about - yes, I am tired after work, but this will inspire me and be fun and I'd rather do that than sit at home with a glass of wine watching tv.

A manifesto is a commitment to understand yourself more as well as to improve the way you live your life; it is more inclusive and positive and less about 'fixing' the things that we think might wrong with us.  It is longer, choosing not one or two top line items that we would like to do differently, but our whole lives and everything in them, our whole selves and everything that makes us who we are.

So take a blank piece of paper and write yourself a manifesto for 2013.  Let the words come, don't overthink it (you can always go back afterwards and make it more coherent).  If you want to and you are brave enough, show it someone you love and who loves you to see what they think and so they can help you.  Put it somewhere that you will see it every day, or pop it in your bedside drawer and refer to it from time to time.  Are you living by the manifesto you set yourself, or have you slipped off track and into old habits that don't serve you?  If you have slipped, why?  Is there a deeper reason for it?  How can you encourage yourself to stay true to what you wished for yourself back in the cold days of January.

My manifesto is blutacked to the wall in the spot where I go to meditate.  It is encouraging and heartfelt; it is about healing and moving forward; it includes a commitment to do the things I love as well as the things that I know do me good, but that I sometimes forget to do or allow life and laziness to get in the way of.  I don't want my manifesto to be like the voice of my critic (inner or outer), telling me off and making me feel bad about failing.  I want it to be the voice of the ones who love me most (in the spirit of having love and compassion for myself), encouraging me to stay true to what I know, be fully who I am and to cultivate those things in my life that help me to stay with that.

I hope you enjoy writing your manifesto; if you're like me, you might even find out a few things about your deeper motives as you write it.


  1. Well, I've got some random resolutions, although I like to make them at any time of the year as well. I do like the idea of a manifesto - I'll have a go at bringing all the resolutions together.
    One resolution is to look again - I love nature watching and particularly birds. I realise, however, that I sometimes don't look "properly" - a chaffinch, a starling = 2 common birds, where's the more unusual one? Well, have you seen a chaffinch today? - the male bird's plumage is just beautiful at the moment, a lovely pink. And the starling, (actually much lower in numbers these days), the one I saw today had wonderful pale spotting on its feathers, just perfect. So, for me, look and then look again. V.


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