I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions feel too big, too intimidating, too inflexible to me. As a mom, my life is in a constant state of change. I can’t commit to something that can’t change with me. One day, my kids are sleeping soundly all night. The next day, one is teething and the other is crying for me to come snuggle after a bad dream. So that whole “wake up before the kids to exercise” thing… not happening. One day, everyone is healthy. The next day, my toddler pukes in my bed. The dreamy “make time for myself daily” idea… not so realistic that day.
Here’s something that you probably already know: most resolutions fail—80 percent by some estimates. You can find a million explanations from experts as to why this failure percentage is so high: the goal is too big, the goal isn’t clear enough, you only set the goal because you felt like you “should,” you don’t have a support system, you don’t track your progress—the list goes on and on.
I think the answer is much simpler, and I don’t think it has as much to do with us as it does with the idea of a resolution in itself. Put simply: the resolution is the problem. Resolutions are so all-or-nothing, do-or-don’t, fail-or-succeed. That kind of mentality doesn’t work for me (along with 80 percent of you), and I say this from a place of having lived with an all-or-nothing, do-it-well-or-don’t-do-it-at-all, perfectionistic mindset for the past 30+ years. I can tell you what it leads to: burnout.
“I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions feel too big, too intimidating, too inflexible to me. As a mom, my life is in a constant state of change. I can’t commit to something that can’t change with me.”
I’ve been burned out at work, I’ve been burned out as a mom, I’ve been burned out as a wife, a friend, a daughter, the list goes on. You know why? Because I can’t. do. it. all. What I used to view as a personal failure, I now view as human.
This year brought an opportunity to reflect on boundaries: why I must set them and why I must enforce them. Though I don’t do resolutions, I do keep a simple a simple list in my phone of things I want for my life in the upcoming year—big and small, concrete, and intangible.
The list isn’t set in stone. It’s bound to change as life changes. But it is a North Star, keeping me focused on the big picture and guiding me to where I want to be. As I look ahead to what I want my life to look like this year, I’m making personal health a priority by setting (and enforcing) boundaries. Here’s what I have in mind:
I have a hard time saying no. I’m a people-pleaser, I’m a recovering perfectionist, I’m passionate, I’m motivated, and I always want to do the best I can. Needless to say, I’m exhausted and anxious a lot of the time. And while the idea of saying no in itself makes me a little anxious, I’m going to practice it in 2024.
Don’t get me wrong: the pandemic introduced me to plenty of uncomfortable “no” situations (no, we can’t make it to that wedding, and no, we can’t have you stay with us from out of town, to name a few). COVID made some boundaries so non-negotiable that I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable saying no. Looking ahead, I plan to accept “because I don’t want to” as an equally justifiable reason to opt-out and say no.
Scheduling Me Time
In my house, if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist. For me, “me time” means anything from curling up with a good book to taking a hot bath to exercising. The whole I’ll work out over lunch thing just didn’t happen if it wasn’t on my calendar. One too many times this year, my I’ll take a hot bath after the kids go to bed plan was replaced by all of the things I “should” be doing instead. My very favorite, let’s step into another world with a good book, also went to the bottom of the priority list. In 2024, I’ll be scheduling this time on my calendar and treating it with equal importance as any of my other commitments.
Setting Screen Time Limits (for Myself)
I’d be lying if I said my toddler hasn’t asked me to put down my phone to play with him before. And while not every second needs to be fully focused on our kiddos, I’d like to be more mindful about not using my phone when I’m with them. Plus, when I think about how much more I could get done if I didn’t mindlessly scroll Instagram after the kids go to bed… I probably could’ve written that novel by now. Of course, some nights mindless scrolling is just what we need, but once again, I want to be more thoughtful about how I’m doing that. Or, more specifically, how long I’m doing that for.
Separating Work Time From Personal Time
A major career transition has me working from home indefinitely. I have always loved working from home and found myself more productive here than in an office, but as someone on the Internet pointed out, working from home is also the same as living at work. With my office right outside our family room, I’m guilty of stepping inside to “just send a quick email” or “finish this one little thing” in the middle of my personal time. Not to mention that no longer having a 30-minute commute or needing to even put on real pants and makeup has made the line between personal time and work time almost invisible. This year, I’ll be setting and sticking to my work hours and personal hours in a more sustainable way.
Saying Bye to Guilt
Saying no, prioritizing myself, and setting boundaries tend to leave me feeling like I’m letting people down… which leads to guilt, which leads to anxiety, which leads to saying yes when I really should say no. I’m leaving guilt behind and taking pride in making healthy, positive decisions for myself that will leave both me and my family happier and better off.