A Reflection on New Year’s Resolutions
As I flip my calendar to 2022, I can’t help but pause to reflect on my New Year’s resolutions from past years. In 2021, my goals were to go on a hike every week and to learn how to watercolor. In the years before, some of my resolutions have included reading a book every month, getting a six-pack of abs, and learning conversational Cantonese.
Admittedly, I have yet to reach any of these goals. I hit pause on Cantonese after listening to an eight-hour “Learn While You Sleep” YouTube tutorial and waking up to realize I (shockingly) still wasn’t fluent. I shelved my reading resolution when I forgot that February was a short month and didn’t finish a novel in time. As for my abs, let’s just say banana bread won that battle.
So since I’ve gone 0 for 23 on New Year’s resolutions, it’s high time for me to adopt a different approach to goal-setting. This year, I’m experimenting by applying the three R’s of sustainability to my resolution. After all, a sustainable, long-lasting life change is what we’re all after, right?
Reduce: As environmentalists, this first R advises us to reduce our ecological impact by decreasing how much waste we produce. In the micro-ecosystems of our minds, we also need to minimize our wasted efforts. Our bodies have limited resources; we each only have so much attention span, our cells can only store so much energy. We need to make the most of what we have, and we can do so by reducing self-criticism and negative thoughts.
In the context of New Year’s resolutions, we can do this by choosing our goals with positive intent and allowing ourselves room for growth as we work towards them. Thinking back to my attempt to read a book every month, I realize that had I given myself more time to finish that second book instead of beating myself up about it, I would have made much more progress towards my goal.
Reuse: Most of us are well-versed in choosing reusable items over single-use options. We have our washable water bottles and cupboards of tupperware. When we have something that works, we don’t just throw it away. The same idea applies to motivating ourselves to make life changes or to accomplish our goals; rather than forcing ourselves to make all-or-nothing changes, we should reuse the strategies that have worked for us in the past.
Cognitive science research shows that we are more likely to succeed in making behavioral changes if we consistently make a series of small changes instead of drastic ones. For example, in my quest to learn Cantonese, it would have been better for me to watch a ten-minute tutorial everyday rather than getting burnt out trying to learn everything in an eight-hour stretch.
Recycle: Why throw an object away when you could find a new use for it? When we put out our recycling bins, our empty soda cans and newspapers are taken away to be transformed into rain gutters and envelopes. If you’re like me, you probably also have shelves of glass sauce jars ready for your next pickling spree. Well, good news - New Year’s resolutions can be recycled too.
My resolution from last year, to go hiking every week, turned out to be too much for me. I still enjoy the physical and mental benefits of being outside, though, and want to continue making time for it. This year, I’m adapting my goal to better reflect my abilities and motivations; my new resolution is to spend an hour immersed in nature each week.
2022 is here, and my resolution is here to stay.
About the Author: Haley Grable
Haley served as our Student Stewards Program Outreach Coordinator VISTA from July 2020-July 2021 and is still active with the Parks Foundation even after her AmeriCorps term has ended. Haley is currently enrolled in the graduate program for Environmental Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. With an equal love for cats, frog memes, sustainability, and environmental justice, she brings a fun levity to topics without diminishing their importance.