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Why I Stopped Making New Year’s Resolutions

With 2019 now in full swing, the internet is rife with resolution charts and vision boards.  However, much like dieting, resolutions are swell in theory but less helpful in practice.

If you know my backstory, you may surmise that New Year’s and the time surrounding is a tricky one for our family.  5 years later, I know I am not the only one who struggles with this.  All it takes is digging a smidgen deeper than casual conversation to find many others in the same predicament.  Should we be partying or should we be solemn?  The best I’ve come up with is somewhere in between.  When it comes to the New Year, I tend to get reflective.  Where I used to make resolutions, I now set intentions.

Resolutions seem to be more about becoming some new and improved version of ourselves.  Intentions give credence to who we truly are.  To me, the word intention feels more spacious.  Like nurturing rather than forcing.  Gradually evolving instead of abruptly changing.  Believe me, I’ve spent most of my life trying to force and manipulate myself into the person I thought I “should” be.  The idea of nurturing authenticity is sort of a recent development, one that I believe came with motherhood.

If anything, having my daughter opened my eyes to life’s complexity.  As humans, most of us are in the process of healing from something.  Most of us are also doing the best we can with what we have.  Berating ourselves into some version of “better” doesn’t help the individual or the collective.  Can it be that compassion is the least talked about but most needed physical, mental, and spiritual hack?  I recently had the chance to ponder this on a very early morning run (one of the perks to having the occasional wakeful dark night of the soul….).

As I ran up a steep hill, I recognized my approach was different than several years ago (and not just because I am running on older knees…).  Though the burning in my quads was calling for my attention, I was able to relax the tension in my face.  My attention then shifted to my hands, which I released out of their tense fists in response.  The uncomfortable feeling was still there, but I was able to sense other feelings in the periphery.  With a widened focus, I could more comfortably proceed.  Instead of admonishing myself for not having stronger quads as I might have in the past, I embraced my humanness and created space for it.

Taking in the twinkling of stars and Christmas lights against the black sky, I thought about contrast.  Maybe it isn’t so unique to have tragedy bump up against celebration.  Humanness is never one dimensional.  It’s all twists and turns and constant imperfection.  It’s light and dark and infinite shades of gray.  It’s birth and death and sometimes, in my experience, both at the exact same time.  Setting the course is important, but recognizing that things may not go exactly as planned is important to.

When I hear the word resolution, my mind and heart get tight.  Granted, I have a hard time firmly committing to anything past what’s for dinner tonight (to give you some perspective, it’s just after lunch as I write this and I am still not completely sure….).  Thankfully, I am married to a logistics machine.  If it were up to me, we’d probably still be contemplating the the ins and outs of marriage these 9 years later.  That’s part of the reason I like intention.

Intention I can warm up to.  It’s less “this is how things must be for me to be ok” and more “I am ok regardless, but am inspired to explore what might happen if things were like this”.  Less rigidity, more space.

I guess what I am saying is, this year, I am inspired to explore some new things and do some old things in different ways (and thanks to J, these things may or may not be on an excel spreadsheet….).  I’ve spent so much of my life trying to walk a straight line on a windy road (or more accurately a labyrinth, with mid-western size pot holes…..).   I’ve also walked with many others to the point where I am no longer surprised to find their roads as windy and pot-holey as mine.  Success in fitness, or otherwise,  doesn’t mean never having complications.  It’s about being able to work with complexity and proceed forward, sometimes gracefully and other times shakily.

By all means, set your sights on eating more plants, picking up a mindfulness practice, and moving more…just don’t forget the golden rule works both ways.  Treat others as you would like to be treated, and try to treat yourself that way too.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!


I wanted go “Wild” on my daughter’s birthday this year after listening to an interview with Cheryl Strayed, but settled on this trail a few blocks from my house…

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