A New Year's Resolution: Go Easy On Yourself

Dec 30, 2019

We’re now in the weird little space between Christmas and New Year’s – sort of the holidays and sort of not. It’s a time of transition, a change in the way we look at the world. Christmas is about the story we tell one another. New Year’s is about the story we tell ourselves.

One of the stories many of us tell ourselves, year after year, is that we are riddled with flaws.

We make a long list of New Year’s resolutions, trying to reroute ourselves in all the places we’ve gone astray. Get in better shape. Connect with old friends. Save more money. Watch less TV.

If you really get going, it’s easy to end up with two or three dozen resolutions. That’s like learning to juggle with chainsaws. It’s better for all concerned if you start small.

In some ways, trying to follow all those resolutions is not as bad as making a long list in the first place. That’s because the list makes you see yourself as someone whose life needs a major overhaul.

It’s probably more likely that you’re not cutting yourself any slack.

Most of us are decent people, trying to do the best we can. That’s a useful thing to remember as we walk through this increasingly divided world. But it’s also a useful thing to remember about yourself.

Yes, you can look back on the past year and see all the places you fell short. Some of them you can learn from and work to change. But a lot, I suspect, were the product of tough decisions, or circumstance, or simple bad luck. They weren’t a judgment on your character. They were just the byproducts of a sometimes unfair world.

There are only three or four resolutions most of us ever need. Be kind to others, even when it’s hard. Give a little more than you have to, whether it’s the tip at a restaurant or a donation to your favorite charity. Tell the people you love that you love them.

And maybe, this coming year, resolve to give yourself a break now and then. For some of you, that might be the hardest resolution to keep. But it’ll make the other ones a lot easier to follow.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.