- The Life of JLOWE
- What I do instead of a New Year's Resolution
What I do instead of a New Year's Resolution
A new idea for your New Year traditions
Has the “New Year” feeling worn off yet? Great. Because you don’t need it to be January 1st, or the first of any month to make a resolution, set a goal, or start working on something new.
How I feel about New Year’s Resolutions
Every year, millions of people around the world make New Year’s resolutions to be better and improve something in their lives in the year ahead. And that’s really amazing, and something that should 100% be celebrated, because although the majority of resolutions are never realized, there’s something so admirably human about being ambitious and wanting better for yourself that we just have to appreciate.
In many of my conversations since January 1st, a recurring theme I’ve heard is “I don’t make resolutions” or “New Year’s resolutions are dumb, they never work out.”
I disagree - I don’t think they’re dumb. However, a lot of times they don’t work out because they’re overly ambitious, or not structured in an achievable way. How are you gonna go from never hitting the gym once to going to the gym every single day, just because December 31 became January 1? Bffr.
As I said at the start of this message, you can start anything in your life at any time. It doesn’t have to be January 1, it doesn’t have to be the first of the month, it doesn’t have to be Monday and it definitely doesn’t have to be “when you have enough time”.
What I do instead of a New Year’s Resolution
For me, since 2018, instead of setting a list of resolutions for the year, I take the time on December 31 or January 1 (depending on where I am, physically) to sit and write a letter to myself at the start of the next year.
It always starts off with “Dear Justin, Happy New Year.” and it’s the first piece of writing I read at the start of every year.
Throughout that letter to myself, I write down how I feel at the moment, what I accomplished in the year that just ended, and what I’m looking forward to in the year ahead. It usually becomes an essay of about 3 pages long (Times New Roman, Font Size 12, single spaced) and it’s a really great time for me to reflect on how the year went, how I feel about how the year went, and what I want to do differently in the year ahead.
Instead of a New Year’s resolution, I use that time of year to have a conversation with myself - to check in and think deeply and critically about what I liked, didn’t like and want to change about myself and about my life going forward.
What I’ve learnt from writing a letter to myself every year
Using the New Year as a reflective and critical thinking moment is important to me, because it’s allowed me to keep an account of where my mind was at those very pivotal moments in my life.
For example, on January 1, 2019 I wrote to myself “I don’t know where you’ll be as you’re reading this, but I hope that you’re back in Jamaica, and have just completed your first semester at either Harvard, Yale or Cornell.”
Reading that now sounds pretty normal to say, because I graduated from Cornell last year.
But on January 1, 2019, I had just submitted my application to Cornell.
I didn’t know if I was going to get in. I didn’t know if I was going to choose to go there. I didn’t know if I was going to get enough financial aid to go there.
There were so many unknowns at the time, but writing that down, forgetting that I even wrote it, and then opening it again on January 1, 2020 as a Cornell student, was one of the most surreal moments in my life. I had literally set a goal for myself and it came true.
Lessons I Learnt from writing a letter to “future me”
1. A year is long, and a lot can be accomplished in that time
Honestly, every year that I read my letter from “past me”, I’m surprised at the difference between where I was mentally just a year ago. In my letter from the end of 2018, I wrote that I was unhappy with where I was in life. Reading that again at the end of 2019, coming back from my first semester in college, in a completely different mindset, I could barely recognize the person that wrote that letter. I was much happier, much more optimistic and in a much more positive place mentally and that was really encouraging to see my growth over the span of a year.
2. Write things down, and read them years later
I read that letter to myself from 2018 again on January 1, 2024, and I actually couldn’t even remember feeling that way. I was surprised that I even wrote that I was unhappy, and that feeling didn’t even register as a memory. However, being able to document that from years ago - at a point in the year where I was reflecting on the year that had just passed - it really made me take stock of the growth that I’ve had over the years.
3. Take stock and reflect
For me, taking stock is really important because it allows you to be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and remember that while time passes slowly, a lot happens in the time that passes.
We’re oftentimes living the dreams that our past selves once had, and that in and of itself is a huge blessing.
Over the past 5 or so years writing a letter to myself, I’ve learnt that conversation with myself is a great way to reflect, to set goals and lay out my feelings about the future and the past. It’s a wonderful feeling to read a message you sent to yourself, and be proud that you accomplished what you hoped to, or even to see what goals and ambitions you had in the past and how those have changed today.
We’re so lucky that as humans that we have great brains that are able to remember and store our most memorable moments. But capturing your state of mind at a reflective point in time like the start of a new year is a great way to give that memory a boost, and keep a record of how you felt and thought at those moments. You’ll appreciate being able to look back and think about how you changed over the year. I know I do.
And lastly, take this with you for the rest of the week - it’s too late to still be saying Happy New Year, but never too late to start something new.
Until next Sunday,