As I write this, it’s 12:32 a.m. on January 1 –– well after 10:00 p.m. –– and I’m still awake. Another of my New Year’s resolutions bites the dust. Again.
Actually, I don’t really make resolutions anymore; instead, I envision aspirations. Aspirations that I repeat daily.
Resolutions vs. Aspirations
What’s the difference between an aspiration and a resolution? According to the Oxford dictionary, a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something,“ while an aspiration is “a hope or ambition of achieving something.”
The two words tend to evoke very different feelings. A resolution feels like a hard and fast rule. We either succeed or fail; there’s no middle ground. Whereas an aspiration feels more like something we’re working toward. It gives us room to make progress gradually, without feeling like a failure if we fall short of our goal one time. Resolutions feel restrictive; aspirations feel motivating.
I divide my aspirations into two groups:
1. Core value aspirations such as:
- I will be impeccable with my word.
- I will make no assumptions.
- I will take nothing personally.
- I will always do my best.(compliments to The Four Agreements)
2. Specific aspirations such as:
- I will be in bed by 10:00 p.m. every night and rise at 7:00 a.m. each morning.
- I will greet the day with a smile and anticipation of good things happening.
- I will honor my body by filling it with nutritious foods and beverages and exercising some part of my body to the extent allowed.
- I will rest when my body needs rest.
- I will surround myself with loving, well-intentioned human beings.
- I will share at least one gift with one person every day (compliments of 29 Gifts).
You get the gist, right? I want to be a better version of me tomorrow than I was today. Some days, I claim victory; others, not so much.
New Year’s Resolutions Bite the Dust
This is the first day of a new year. It’s a time when many people get excited about changing their lives so they mark the new year with a list of New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to lose weight, save money, be nicer to our family, quit smoking, start volunteering in the community –– out with the bad and in with the good! I believe most of these resolutions are made in good faith –– faith that we really can do these things, and faith that the new year is the right time to make a new start.
Unfortunately, although humans have been making New Year’s resolutions for about 4,000 years, the stick-to-itiveness just doesn’t … well, stick for most of us. In fact, the statistics show that less than 10% of people are successful in sticking to their resolutions.
I used to plant flowers in the front yard every spring, with absolute certainty that I would water them, weed them and tend to them daily so that in the middle of summer, I would have a beautiful array of blooms, colors and fragrances. Inevitably, by the middle of June, there were more weeds than flowers, and what flowers were present were obviously parched. Daily I encountered a clear sign of my uselessness, my utter failure to do anything right. I wondered why I even bothered…on and on and on with the stinking thinking.
Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Newsletter (it's free!)
Finally, one spring, I decided to be honest with myself. I love beautiful flowers. I love fragrant flowers. Tending them? I don’t love that part so much. So why did I continue to torture myself? I resolved at that point NOT to plant flowers. Instead, I aspired to enjoy my neighbors’ beautiful flowers, to get a few bouquets throughout the summer to place inside the house, and to be grateful for all those people who love to garden and gain satisfaction from that work. I’m not one of those people.
So why do we even bother with making resolutions? Aren’t we just setting ourselves up to fail? I don’t think so. Emrys Westacott wrote that New Year’s resolutions represent the “triumph of hope over experience.” We want our lives, yea, even ourselves, to be better. And that’s why I choose the word aspiration over resolution.
Every day, I aspire to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday. I look at the roles in my life –– wife, mother, grandmother, sibling, friend, employee, consumer, advocate, citizen –– and I try to commit to being the best I can in each of those roles at the exact moment I don that hat. As The Four Agreements instructs us to “Always Do Your Best,” it also acknowledges that your best on Monday may not be the same as your best on Tuesday. But you can aspire to do the best you can at any given moment.
Aspire to greatness. Your greatness.
So how about you? Did you make any resolutions –– or even better, any aspirations –– for this new year? Do you have aspirations or resolutions you would like to share with others in the fibromyalgia community? Let us hear from you in the comments below.
This article, originally published on January 1, 2018, was updated on January 1, 2020.
Cindy is the Director of Program Operations at the Center for Practical Bioethics and the PAINS Project Director. She and her husband live in Kansas City where she enjoys hiking, reading, and being Gramma Cindy.
Yehlen, Shanna. Why do we make New Year’s resolutions? Mental Floss. December 31, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/60776/why-do-we-make-new-years-resolutions
Westacott, Emrys. New Year’s resolutions always disappoint, so let’s try something else. Daily Beast. July 13, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-years-resolutions-always-disappoint-so-lets-try-something-else