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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

Observer Editorial: 2023 is for progress, not perfection

New Year’s resolutions, if focused on healthy self-improvement can be a great way to hold yourself accountable to your own personal goals. And although self-improvement looks different for each individual, resolutions can become harmful when you essentially weaponize the New Year against yourself. We’ve all heard the phrase, “new year, new me.” But we should use it as encouragement, not ammunition.

For some, it’s weight loss. For others, it’s eating healthier. It might be improving relationships within your family or your friend group. Maybe you wanted to read one book a week or learn a new recipe. To buy a new car or land your first job. New Year’s resolutions look different for everyone.

The purpose of this editorial is not to diminish your goals or accomplishments. Rather, our aim is to emphasize how your resolutions can be successful without holding yourself to unhealthy standards that can harm you in the long run.

Creating a long-term goal to eat more nutritious food? Healthy. Having a cheat day, then punishing yourself by barely eating the next? Unhealthy. Or having a cheat day, then thinking it ruined your goal? Also unhealthy.

If you didn’t meet your expectations for this month, it doesn’t mean you failed, or that it’s not a goal worth achieving. Instead of forcing yourself to follow strict lifestyle rules, take a moment to reflect on the first month of 2023.

Remember that any progress, even if it’s not the amount that you wanted to see, is worth celebrating. Didn’t get a job in January but got an interview? Submitted more applications? Anything can be viewed as positive growth toward your overall goal. Wanted to work out more, but only got to the gym once? Celebrate getting there and plan to go twice in February. Wanted to read a book a week, but only got through two during the month? You’re still making an effort. At the other end of the spectrum, say you didn’t read any books. Say you didn’t make much progress on the job front. That doesn’t mean your year is already a failure; you still have eleven more months!

We’re only a month into 2023, and a lot can change. Keep working on your process. You don’t have to wait for the next set of New Year’s resolutions to come around to try again. February is the perfect time to re-evaluate the standards you set for yourself. Were they realistic? If not, you can still reset and create new goals. And if you feel they’re realistic, that’s great! Work to keep achieving them — just don’t punish yourself for not being on pace or diminish what you’ve already accomplished.

This editorial isn’t so much a progress check as it is a reminder that a New Year’s resolution is only as good as you make it. And if you make it about unrealistic goals, physical or otherwise, you will set yourself up for inevitable disappointment. Depending on your mindset, this disappointment can easily turn into self-hatred as you make your own feelings of self-worth contingent on a goal only you are holding to yourself.

The purpose of a resolution is to feel happy with the steps you are making to improve your life. But you are more than your resolutions, and it’s impressive to even get up in the morning, regardless of what else you do. New Year’s resolutions are a bonus to make yourself feel only more successful; they’re not meant to add extra stress to your day. Keep your resolutions and benchmarks healthy and realistic for yourself, and the rest will come. Trust in that process.

Happy February! Celebrate what you’ve achieved, and look forward to a 2023 that can still be great.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.