The Truth About New Years’ Resolutions


white and brown abstract painting
Photo by Evie Shaffer on

I am standing shoulder to shoulder in a crowd filled with what seems like half the population of Adelaide. A usually quiet small-town pub, tonight the Robe Caledonian Inn has been transformed into the South East’s most vibrant hangout. It’s a cool evening, which is not unexpected considering we’re in Robe. Usually, I’d be annoyed by the fact that I have to wear a jumper in the height of Summer, but tonight I don’t mind. The light breeze is a pleasant relief against the heat emanating from the cluster of dancing bodies in which I have somehow ended up in the middle of.

I am mildly intoxicated – enough to admit that I prefer Madonna’s “Hung Up” to ABBA’s original, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”, but not enough to commit a social faux pas that I might regret in the morning (though some might say that confessing my love of “Hung Up” is indeed an unforgivable social faux pas).  Sorry, not sorry. I gaze up at local celebrities, the B-Sharps, as they perform a stellar rendition of Paul Kelly’s iconic “How to Make Gravy”. I chime in along with the rest of the audience, throwing in some random words here and there when the actual lyrics have escaped me. I do however manage to nail the outro – a simple repetition of “doo-la-doo-da-doo-doo” that continues until the rest of the instruments eventually fade out. I get ready for the next song. Surely it’ll be “Wonderwall”, or maybe “Hotel California”. I am struck by a moment of confusion when, instead of playing another song, the band starts counting down from ten. The alcohol has clearly made me slower than usual and it takes me a few seconds before I realise what is happening. I quickly chime in, “eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one – HAPPY NEW YEAR!”.

Ah yes, it’s that time of the year again. A time where we all reflect on the year that has passed us by – quicker than the last one I swear – and press the reset button, vowing to embark on a year of self-improvement and character building so on and so forth. But how is this year really going to be any different from all those other years where you have made those same promises to yourself and set those same goals that are still, three years later, yet to be achieved? Why is this year going to be the year that you apply for a promotion, read a book every month, or quit your job and travel around the world? How will you change your approach so that you can actually achieve those same objectives that you set yourself last year, committed to for a month, only to give up on in February when life became all too much again?

This may all sound pessimistic but I am only asking these questions of you because these are the same questions that I asked myself when I woke up on the 1st of January 2020 with a mild hangover and a severely depleted bank account. I have always believed in setting myself goals but when it comes to new years’ resolutions I think we’re gypped. There is an expectation that we lay all our ambitions and aspirations out on the table for everyone to know about. But what happens at the end of the year when, for whatever reason, we maybe haven’t been able to achieve those goals? We feel shame, guilt and disappointment, maybe even embarrassment.

For these reasons, I have chosen to take a different approach to my new years’ resolutions for 2020. For one, I have set myself goals that I actually want to achieve, not what I think would make others proud of me. Secondly, the goals that I have set myself are, in my mind, realistic and achievable. I have started small so that if I feel that I have the capacity to go bigger, then I can. While I do believe it is important to dream big, I think that rather than setting yourself one huge and daunting challenge, it’s better to break that overarching goal into several smaller goals. That way, as you achieve each stepping-stone objective, you’ll feel at least some sense of accomplishment. Hopefully, this will motivate you to continue pursuing the ultimate goal rather than becoming overwhelmed and frustrated by the feeling that you’re not getting anywhere. This also means that at the end of the year, even if you haven’t achieved all that you set out to, at least you know that you have taken steps to put yourself in a better position to reach it the following year. Finally, if I do get halfway through the year and decide that I am simply no longer interested in achieving a particular goal, then I will not force myself to pursue it. Instead, I’ll devote myself to the remaining goals that are truly important to me.

So, with all that being said, what are your goals for 2020?