Let's try something really new for this new decade. Instead of making self-promises that will be broken by January 18th, let's resolve not to resolve.
I'm not saying that we should stop trying to be better people. I'm not saying that it's a bad idea to be slimmer and fitter and wealthier and nicer, to listen better and remember names and work out regularly and get off the sugar. I'm just saying let's try it a different way.
The reason that most resolutions don't work is the same reason that most diets don't work. They are all cast in the fires of self-hate and deprivation, each with a preordained exit back onto the slippery slope.
I'm not saying you won't be happy to fit into those jeans. I'm saying you won't fit into those jeans–permanently–unless you're already somewhat happy. This is the grand paradox of self-acceptance and self-improvement.
I am convinced that we make most of our resolutions and promises when operating from the more limiting belief that "nothing is ever good enough". This thought references some future, external standard. If we were to hit it that mark, we could then declare lasting, mind-blowing happiness, but of course we won't hit it because the standard is likely one of those impossible-to-hit social or cultural ideals–something we should be and therefore are currently not. This is a scarcity approach to life: the standard keeps moving further away as we get closer to it.
Even though they might seem like they are the same, the more expansive belief that "everything can be improved" is subtly but significantly different. This mindset implies some already existing quality that is already really good, but that could become really great with some practice and process and play. This is an abundance approach to life: "there's a lot more where that came from!" I am already that. Somewhat.
Instead of putting all sorts of attention into yet another project driven by toxic self-judgement, let's be grateful for what we already have and build on that.
For example, I want to be less of a dickhead and remember names. But that self-admonishment only entrenches the negative self-judgement which then tends to manifest itself as dickheadedness. I then get anxious as fuck and choke in social settings as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead, I am paying attention to the people I admire who are humble, dignified and generous and bringing more of those qualities out in myself. I remember more names as a result. I admire these qualities not because I don't possess them. I admire them because I do.
Gratitude is a form of self-acceptance that leads to profound happiness, which we then express as behaviors that lead to self-improvement. Happy people don't tend to behave like dickheads.