New Year’s. Black Press file

New Year’s. Black Press file

Instead of resolutions, just do your best

Turning improvement into a game really isn’t improvement

It’s the New Year!

That means it’s time to think about resolutions. Now I’m not opposed to wanting to improve your life. Please go ahead and do that. The thing I have a problem with is making a game out of improving your life.

These days, it’s super easy to fall into the trap of gamification. That means to set a goal of doing a certain number of things in a certain time. Social media makes it super easy to do this. I can track my hiking, biking, running, reading, swimming, the kinds of beers I’ve tried, the birds I’ve seen, the foods I’ve cooked, the projects I’ve knitted, the productivity of my garden, all of it. The problem is doing this is that it’s super unhealthy and reinforces the need to be “productive” at all costs.

I think New Year’s Resolutions are a way to do this for self-improvement.

Instead of swearing to go to the gym every week for the year and getting really down on yourself when you inevitably fail (things come up, it’s not your fault), instead try to be a bit more active without the possibility of failing. Trying to generally be better without tying it to a goal or a timeline is a lot more relaxing, and the best part is you can’t really fail at it. Self-improvement shouldn’t be something you put on a deadline, but rather a daily practice of trying to do your best and letting yourself off the hook when you have an off-day.

Gamification takes the benefit out of whatever your hobby or goal is, and makes it about winning the game instead of enjoying reading your favourite books or eating more vegetables. It turns your practice into a chore, instead of something that’ll be actually beneficial.

I’ll give you an example: my wife loves reading. She always has. In 2022, she (and I) did a reading challenge, the kind where you set a goal of a number of books to read and do your best to get there by the end of the year. She got so into the “game” of reading that instead of reading for pleasure, self-fulfilment or education, she read to meet her goal. The thing is, she can’t really remember much about the books she’s read this year and ended up feeling stressed that she wouldn’t complete her goal by the year’s end. She did it, and does feel fulfilled for completing her goal, but if she hadn’t been trying to meet monthly quotas to keep on track she could have explored different genres, or tried a longer book. Quality or quantity?

Doing this with self-fulfillment will make it so you will inevitably fail, and possibly end up in a worse place than you were before. You probably can’t make it to the gym every week. You’ll get sick, you’ll have a family thing to go to, you’ll go on vacation, you’ll have an unexpected financial need. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, but if you’ve gamified your self-improvement then you might feel that way.

I know a lot of resolutions are cheeky and some people don’t actually mean them, but there are a lot who do. New Years is an important time, the symbolic change of the calendar gives the feeling of a fresh start. However, instead of feeling the need to set strict and unachievable goals, just try doing a bit better every day. Every day could be a new year, so every day’s a new start. Just try to be kinder, a bit more active, have less impact and be a bit more helpful every day and we’ll all be in a better place this time next year.

RELATED: I’ve given up on making New Years resolutions

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