Making New Year’s resolutions even though they’re probably doomed to fail

New year, not so new me.

Natalie Teo |
December 23, 2022, 2:08 am

We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.

Welcome to 2023!

It’s another new year and a regularly scheduled reminder that I should have done more with my life by now (the other one is on my birthday).

Everyone around me is making their resolutions for the year ahead, and I’m no exception.

History reliably informs me that my goals are probably not going to come to fruition, but I’m going to try anyway.

Adulthood (ugh)

Despite my general scepticism towards New Year’s resolutions, I’ve reached the point in adulthood where I’m about to embark on another life stage—becoming a homeowner.

In a couple of years, I’ll be able to responsibly go into debt buy public housing under the HDB Singles Scheme.

image of a cluster of public housing blocks in singapore

Can’t wait to be in debt for the rest of my life.

Which I’ll have to save up for a down payment, renovation and other ~adult~ things (like cooking my own meals).

Which means it’s a good time as any to set resolutions, I suppose.

With my dubious track record however, it’s best to keep expectations of myself low reasonable. So… nothing that will require me to display unprecedented amounts of self-discipline, commitment or willpower.

After pondering this for a full five minutes, I finally came up with five achievable resolutions that don’t require me to change my personality completely:

1. Know where my money is going

I should probably be a little ashamed to admit that I track almost none of my expenses.

If it’s any consolation though, on what I do track — I put aside a significant portion of my salary into investing and insurance, and never miss a payment.

an image of coins in a glass jar labeled "house fund"

An accurate depiction of the state of my current house fund.

I also spend close to nothing on new clothes and shoes, preferring to shop secondhand and only when I need it.

My biggest expense would probably be fitness classes, which I pay for without batting an eyelid.

So what’s a girl to do knowing that there’s no way that I’m going to become a penny-pinching, everything-tracking excel sheet master anytime soon?

Start small of course.

From now onwards, I’m going to note down what I spend on every time I pay my credit card bill.

I’ve also just sent a calendar invite to myself (yay. another meeting) at the half-year mark to look at my spending and identify areas to cut down and boost my savings.

2. Do one environmentally-friendly thing every day

It might also be time to revisit some of my past failures—like my applaudable (but ultimately unrealistic) efforts several years ago to be start being more eco-conscious.

I pulled out all stops in what I saw was my duty to the planet: boycotting fast fashion, taking public transport everywhere, cutting almost all disposables from my life and starting upcycling projects.

To no one’s surprise, this quickly fizzled out.

I was frustrated with my failure to live up to my goals perfectly, especially when I caved and bought myself a new phone.

My efforts since have been inconsistent—I have kept aside a pile of old clothes that I hoped to turn into tissue box and cushion covers one day, but the pile has now turned into its own installation.

This year, I’ve decided to aim for at least one environmentally-friendly action a day.

Whether it is taking my own cup to get coffee, choosing the bus over taking a taxi, or finally starting to make some quirky tissue box covers for my new home – every conscious decision I make to be more environmentally friendly, I’ll count as a win.

3. Cook once a month

My cooking skills are currently limited to heating raw food to a safe temperature without starting a fire.

I count myself lucky if it accidentally ends up tasting good.

While I retain some of the basic skills to keep myself alive thanks to an overseas stint while in college, there is no reason for me to cook now.

image of a girl in an orange shirt and an apron cooking

Throwback to the last time I cooked – in 2016 at a cooking class in Thailand.

So, if in a couple of years, I’m going to be cooking healthy meals for myself daily and hosting friends, I better start turning my food from (barely) edible to palatable now.

To start with, I’m going to try a new recipe at least once a month and serve it to at least two victims friends who will eat it willingly.

4. Learn to iron my clothes

Many undesirable household chores like vacuuming, mopping and washing dishes can now be automated, and I sure as hell will be doing that.

Sadly, there still no practical and affordable way to automate ironing and folding for household use.

Currently, the parents have a helper come in once a week, but that seems a little excessive for a ✨newly independent✨ gurl 💅🏻 like me.

Time to start ironing my own clothes, and probably burn something on the way.

But a start is a start.

5. Actively keep my friends in my life

People always say that friendships in adulthood are notoriously difficult to keep.

Many of my friends have started their own families, and I have been replaced by their spawn their priorities have now changed.

an image of five girls. the middle one is pregnant and the other four are holding her belly

Different life stages.

Inevitably, we’ve drifted apart slowly, and the pandemic hasn’t helped either.

I realise now that I have to take the initiative to nurture these connections that I want to keep.

It’s a little overdue, but I’m going to make an effort to stay in touch by checking in more often and taking an active interest in their lives.

So, my vision of drunk Friday nights might have to change to include child-proofing some of my furniture, stocking up on grape juice and swearing a lot less.

But that’s a small price to pay for keeping them around.

Reckoning with failure

But I am still cautiously optimistic about my new endeavours to Be A Better Me.

I say that I want to keep my resolutions realistic, but really, if they were not even mildly aspirational, wouldn’t I already be doing them?

But it’s mildly comforting to know that the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions fail.

People who are a lot smarter than me have explained why this is so:

One is that these resolutions may not come from an innate desire to change, but pressure to do so based on social comparisons.

I’m definitely guilty of this.

In the past, my goals to lose weight and drop a size were linked to my desire to be closer to the ideal standard of beauty sold to me in ads and on social media.

Another reason is directional bias, or underestimating just how long things take to happen.

When I didn’t observe any physical changes in myself after a few weeks of eating clean and exercising, I would get frustrated and give up, going back to square one.

Based on my extensive experience with giving up on resolutions, I’ve figured that the key is to stop looking at other people as markers of success.

Beating myself up for not having it all figured out like everyone else is just going to be counterproductive.

So, bonus resolution: be kind to myself, and understand that screwing up on the way to my goals is okay.

All images via Unsplash and Natalie Teo. 

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