Ah, New Years. There's just something about it that creates a sense of the tabula rasa. Whether it's the fact that you had to go buy a new cute kittens and hot porn stars calendar ("Pussies and Pussies"?), or just that everyone around you has decided that they too are going to take the "new year" to give up their vices and go back to school, something about the new year sings of possibility and potential.
I hate resolutions--I always have.
Most resolutions are born of some dim awareness that we have the capacity to be better people if we start doing something or stop doing something and if we have extraordinary willpower might end up still being in effect by January fourth.
Plus the gym is always so fucking crowded. Get off my elliptical, you tourist!
What I do like are inventories. When you sit down and take an inventory both what's important to you that you've been trying to do and honestly how you've done with them, two things will become clear to you almost immediately: 1) what things you actually care about improving (not what society says you should care about or what you THINK you should care about) and 2) if that thing needs more of your time and energy in the future. If you don't really care about quitting smoking, that's not going to show up on your list, and probably is a waste of time and energy to worry about next year. But if you find yourself listing out how often you flossed your teeth, and how you want to be better about it, it might be a good idea to give that some energy since it's clearly something you care about.
It's up to you if you want to set goals about the things that show up, but if you do, make them good goals, and not mealy mouthed "resolutions." However, generally at this point I would recommend simply taking a very good look at what you accomplished that you think is important, and what you didn't. The shifts you probably want to make in your life should become self-evident as you flesh out the inventory. Instead of unrealistic resolutions, you have a sense of whether your life is going the way it should be.
Though this prompt can really be done at any point, I know it has a particular sort of magic during the new year.
Prompt: Make an inventory of the last year. Only list the things that you feel are in some way important to you. (It's not a list of everything you did.) If there's something you feel is falling far enough behind to make a goal out of it, make a good, reasonable goal rather than a resolution.
Since this is a little hard to describe, I have done an example below with my writing inventory for 2013 as well as a few personal goals that aren't TOO personal. Notice how simply by writing out what I did in 2013 and whether I'm happy with that, I can see where to put my ongoing focus without making any "resolutions."
1) Wrote every day--at least an hour. (Yay! Keep that up. Maybe we can push it to two.)
2) Kept blog going with 5-6 articles a week. (Rockstar! Might even be able to dial it back to 4-5 now that there are so many good "reruns," and overall traffic isn't so dependent on each day's post.)
3) Read almost every day. (I'd like to be better at this--more often and for longer. Writers gotta read.)
4) Posted fiction about once every other month. (This is one of the major changes I'd like to make. Much more fiction in 2014--possibly even start to research the ways in which my audience would tolerate me monetizing my longer fiction.)
4)Write a page a day on current fiction project. (Way under where I want it. Only did this about ten times all year and instead wrote my current manuscript in fits and starts.) *Might be time to set up a S.M.A.R.T.(S). goal about this.
1) Didn't get to the gym at all. (I want to start taking fitness more seriously now that I'm getting my "sea legs" when it comes to blogging. Perhaps starting at once a week would be good.)
2) Walked more than half the days. (Good. But I still want to get to walking a bit every day.)
If you really want to be awesome, put the things you feel like you want to work on for the future in priority order so that you're not devoting time and energy to some secondary or tertiary goal while the most important thing in life continues to be unacceptable.
And with this work done, if you REALLY want to make a "resolution," you're in a much better place to make one that actually matters instead of just some flip promise to end some human frailty that we all have.