“New Year, New Me” is setting you up to fail

Published on 12/31/2020

We see it every year as our social media feeds become filled with the same old post, claiming “New Year, New Me”. Haven’t seen that sickening term? You must have better friends on social media.

But whether or not you actively post it, many of us are guilty of the “New Year, New Me” mindset, even when we don’t categorise as such. We go into the New Year with big dreams and ambitions, setting ourselves up to fail before we’ve even passed the starting line. The aims and ambitions we hold aren’t the issue, but rather how we identify them. Those big dreams and ambitions are more than possible if you simply prepare yourself correctly for the race, as well as determine if this is even the race for you. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s first consider why “New Year, New Me” is doomed to fail.

The “New Me”

You’re essentially categorising the version of yourself entering 2021 to be a different person. That you’re leaving behind the [insert name] of 2020 and moving into someone new. I get wanting to do that, most years we’re filled with cringe-inducing mistakes and bad events that make us want to start all over, and 2020 is certainly no different. It makes sense to want to be someone new in the year to come, but you’re removing ownership of yourself by looking at this way. You’ll hold yourself less accountable in the new year, as it’s a new you. This renders you more likely to fail in your goals and ambitions, as you’re starting from scratch.

It also categorises the old you to be wrong, garbage to be dumped. That isn’t the case, even if it feels like it is. There are so many wonderful aspects of the [insert name] of 2020. They overcame one hell of a year, and all that time at home taught them many things. They built extreme resilience, so why not carry that into 2021?

Instead of only looking at the things to change, consider the things to keep. What worked well this year? What do you want to keep doing? Inject positivity into your New Year’s resolutions, and watch you thrive off the energy of it. Room for improvement is always welcome, but you’ll get much further if you’re not starting with a blank canvas.

Making it too big to succeed

Again, by introducing the “New Me” in 2021, you’re putting all your bets in one place. You’re going in firing the big guns. And there’s nothing wrong with having grand ambitions, since I was ten years old I’ve been determined to be a successful author. The world is run on big aspirations. But you can’t go into the year with only those vast goals, as then you won’t succeed.

If you plan to exercise five times a week, after getting off your couch maybe twice in 2020, how can you hope to keep that up? Then the issue happens when you don’t exercise five times a week, and you feel like a failure, so you just give up. Or when you realise it’s an unrealistic goal alongside childcare/work/family/friends/self-care, and so you throw the towel in.

Or you’re going to start saving $400 a month when your savings account is currently empty. You’re going to stop eating sugar altogether, or read fifty books when the last book you completed was in High School English - but not really because you used Sparknotes instead!

My point is that if you aim for the peak of the mountain, it’ll always look too far away and you’ll struggle to remain motivated. But what if you first aimed for base camp? A reasonable goal, but also a satisfying one. Then once you’re at base camp, what if you took it a little further, and then a bit further? Before you know it, you’re at the peak.

You need to build micro habits, so make those a part of your resolutions instead of believing that you can completely turn over a new leaf. That leaf is awfully heavy on your own. Break your goals down into manageable steps.

Is it stuff you actually want, or should want?

I think the reason we often don’t do this is that we actually want to fail. We set up huge ambitions and proclaim “New Year, New Me” because we think we should. We should have dreams, but those don’t have to be the same for everyone else.

Do you really want to cut out sugar completely, or just live healthier so you can feel better about it? Do you want to run a half-marathon, or just have a weekly run that makes you feel stronger? Do you want to write a book, or do you think it would be too stressful and you’d prefer blog writing?

Goals are not a one size fits all; they’re personalised to each of us. Just because someone else wants something, it doesn’t mean that you do too. So before setting up your resolutions, why not consider what you actually want in life? Write down where you see yourself in ten years, but write it as if you’re already there. It can be significant accomplishments or how your life is structured. What is the life you want to lead? What will make you happy? The latter is the only valid question that you need in life.

Once you know your finish line, it’ll be easier to work out how you want to get there. Break it down and watch how you succeed in every area that is actually important to you.

Did you write it down?

I cannot stress this point enough. Saying what you’re going to do, or how you’ll be a completely new person, is simply not enough. You are 42% more likely to achieve goals that you are writing down. Don’t say it, don’t text it, and instead write it down with a pen and paper. Take your time to write down your goals for the year to come.

Even better is to put this list somewhere where you can see it easily. It will hold you accountable and ensure that your goals are at the top of your mind. You should never forget what your goals are; if they’re important to you, then they’ll be easy to remember.

Remember that anything can be a goal; it doesn’t just have to be about exercise, money or work. How often do you want to go to the theatre or a museum? How many books do you want to read? Where would you like to travel?

For example, next year, I want to go on my first solo trip. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think it would be really important for me to do it and grow from it. Destination suggestions are welcome!

Not just the new year

The biggest issue in “New Year, New Me” lies in the suggestion that this is the only time to change. That if it’s April and you’re a shitty person, you have to wait until next January to change that. Humans are continually evolving, look at how different you are pre and post lockdown. We’re beings of change, so acknowledge this by always challenging yourself to grow and improve.

I make goals every month. I sit down and work out what I want to achieve and the habits I want to build. Often it will be a book I want to finish writing or one I want to edit. How many books I want to read and any other one-off tasks. I also consider how I want my weeks to look, do I want to run three times per week or reach a certain distance? How often do I want to go to the cinema or on a date with my partner?

Structure your months by what you want to achieve; it’s also a great way to accomplish your resolutions step-by-step. It gives you a moment of reflection and direction for the month to come. It also reminds you that even if one month was bad or unproductive, the next month can be better, and will be.

Allow yourself to achieve everything you want to from 2021, at least everything that’s within your control, which is probably more than you realise. Set yourself up correctly and see how you soar. The first step starts right here, with your goals for the year to come.

So instead of “New Year, New Me”, consider one of the following:

New Year, New Writing Habit

New Year, New Exercise Plan

New Year, New Moments to be Grateful



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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