The First Big Resolution You Should Make Before All Others

I just celebrated my first toast to the new year. 

I can tell I’m an adult now because I started celebrating the end of 2015 by organizing the cupboard in my bathroom. Nothing says “Happy New Year” like recycling mostly empty shampoo bottles.

I try to keep myself from overcommitment and the deception of “self-help” (which might not always be possible). The New Year is a powerful thing, though–even if it is just a simple change of the number on our calendars. I’m, at the very least, going to stop eating so much Christmas baking.

But the whole season got me thinking about resolutions, and why we make them, and the one thing most of us miss when we’re planning our year ahead. 

Or, at least, it’s the one thing I usually forget when I’m trying to form new habits.

Before you commit to doing anything else you should make this resolve:


It’s so simple, isn’t it? And almost childish. I can feel the dismissal already. Some of you have already closed the link. For those of you who are still here: thank you! 

Here’s my reasons for making this resolution before the rest of them:

1. Life is going to contradict you.

It’s not going to be easy to get to the gym after January. War and Peace gets especially dry 100 pages in.

Your circumstances are going to resist your new choices, no matter how hard you’re trying. 

You can’t expect the world around you to be nicer to you when you’re putting in the effort. You can wait around for people to get it–why not be kind to yourself instead?

2. Whatever you gain from your shame you can’t keep.

I’m really bad for self-criticism. I figure, the harder I am on myself, the better I’ll do after I’ve failed. I’m also strangely proud of myself for being so intense. I pretend to be my own drill sergeant on the inside, but I have no idea whether it’s helping me or not.

Even if beating yourself up helps you in the short-term, you lose out in the end. Here’s why: if you make progress through feeling bad about your failures, you either have to keep failing–or you have to keep feeling bad. If you’re making it, you’re more and more miserable. 

The standard you keep becomes more and more extreme as your rules become longer and stricter, all while you still haven’t begun to enjoy yourself.

Why not be kind to yourself instead?

3. Kindness inspires your convictions.

Your beliefs aren’t the opinions you rehearse over and over again. They’re the deeper feelings you hold to subconsciously–the things which inspire your choices. 

Whatever habits and patterns you have now are protected by your current beliefs. The shape you’re in, and how you handle your money, and how you treat other people stems from your core convictions. 

Here’s the bad news first: you can’t change those things yourself. Try as you might, you are a product of your faith.

Now the good news.

Kindness always comes before you change your heart and mind. 

Compassion gives way to inspiration. Although tenderness and gentleness will never be featured in a Gatorade commercial, they go a longer way to unwinding the real reasons you choose what you choose. Instead of trying to constantly convince yourself you really like all that kale, why not be kind to yourself instead?

Kindness waters your garden so all the habits and disciplines you’ve planted can grow. Of course, you’ll need to work hard. And being kind to yourself is much different from being soft and compromising all the time. 

If you, before you try to accomplish any other goal, make up your mind to treat yourself with respect, you’ll go a lot further.

Now, don’t mind me–I’m signing off. I’ve got a lot more shampoo bottles to sort before midnight.