Musings about life

Why you should make impossible New Year’s resolutions

I approach New Year's resolutions the same way I approach ultramarathons: I seek out things that seem unattainable. I know from the moment I make my resolutions that there is a good chance I will fail. And, looking at my track record, I rarely make any of them. So why bother?

I approach New Year’s resolutions the same way that I approach ultramarathons: I seek out things that seem unattainable. I know from the moment I make my resolutions that there is a good chance I will fail. And, looking at my track record, I rarely make any of them. So why bother?

I suppose I’m a dreamer at heart. I believe that it is important to set aspirational – perhaps even impossible – goals. It is the possibility of failure that ultimately attracts me. Perhaps this is a bit woo-woo, but forgive me, I’ve had two dark ‘n’ stormies here under quarantine: New Year’s resolutions for me act like lodestars. Even if I don’t reach them, they help guide me forward in the right direction. The process of setting resolutions at the start of every year helps me take stock of where I’m currently at and where I want to go, while recognizing that those goals might change completely one week or six months from now – and that’s perfectly okay.

In my view, New Year’s resolutions should follow the “Barkley philosophy”: if you want a challenge, it has got to be a real challenge. We learn nothing by setting goals for ourselves that we know we will accomplish – that’s a participation medal I don’t really want to get.

No one really knows what will happen in 2021. If 2020 taught us anything, it is to be ready for the completely unpredictable… but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still dream and plan as if this year will go exactly the way we want it to. As if everything is possible. And more. Setting resolutions, making plans, and dreaming up goals help us to positively change the trajectory of where we are heading, even if it isn’t ultimately where we thought we wanted to end up. There’s value in that.

I know a lot of you are apprehensive about 2021, but please don’t let that hold you back. In fact, I think it is even more important this year than any other year we’ve probably had in our lifetimes to dive in head first. Sign up for that race, make that impossible New Year’s resolution, and commit to that unattainable goal. And know that the intention behind it will get you to a better place. As David Roche said recently in a fantastic recent Trail Runner Magazine article:

Full speed ahead with the spirit. All systems set to “BELIEVE.” And while we’re at it, give the “reckless” button a little push. Whatever big swing you have planned, it might work or it might not (most likely not, if we’re monitoring the probabilities). But either way, it’s going to be an adventure.

Personally, I’m signed up for races this year from April to October, Europe to Asia, 115km to 450km (even if some of those races haven’t actually allowed registration yet… in my head, I’m already in). Do I think that all of those races will actually be held? No, not really. Do I think I will be allowed that much leave from work to do all of them? Nope, definitely not. I don’t care. I much prefer to think about the possibility of doing them all… because you really never know. We have to at least give the impossible a chance to drop the ‘im’ prefix.

This year I am going to dream big, train hard, love fiercely, and demand more. It’s going to be a great year – it just will. I refuse to let the shit-storm that was 2020 dampen my 2021 aspirations. Let’s plan for those unimaginable adventures and throw caution to the wind – who knows where it will take us.

19 comments on “Why you should make impossible New Year’s resolutions

  1. So refreshing! Thank you Stephanie Case! Happy New Year!!

  2. You captured my exact thoughts & feelings as I set my intentions for this new year throughout my day. Let’s make the best of it! Happy New Year to you!

  3. annecase1

    Love, love, love this, Steph!

  4. Don Smith

    You have been on the other side of impossible many tines which takes me to the thought “what if I could”? You got me to raise my own goal setting from just above my comfort zone to a couple of chalkenges that border on incredible. Sharing matters, especially when you instill confidence. 2021 will be what we aspire to make it’s all woven into our intent. Happy New Yeat.

    • Happy new year to you!! So excited for you and your new “uncomfortable” goals 🙂 Keep me posted on how this year goes. Awesome stuff!!!

  5. darylchymko

    Yes!! My mantra this year is “Dream big, act in the moment.” The big scary dreams are my “North star” but my daily actions are what I’m really excited about. Like many others, I took a ton of things for granted prior to 2020. No more, I’m going to enjoy the moments (beers with friends) but also say “yes” to reckless and crazy adventures that previously I may have said “mmmm, maybe in a few years time” to.

    Also, 2020 set such a low bar, so why not dream big, and even if we fail at 60% of it, 2021 will still be 30% better. 😂

    • Amazing – love that you are enjoying the “normal” moments more (or what was once normal and is now unique!). This year will be great 🙂

  6. The boat is getting pushed out this year!
    Happy New Year!!!

  7. Thank you for posting your perspective. I share the same sentiment.. I suppose runners/ultra runners have an perpetual optimism. I wish you the best. Let’s make this year a great comeback.
    All the best

  8. Tanya Mooney

    I love this post. I love New Year and have always set New Years resolutions. It’s a time for hope and positivity.

  9. I agree Steph, it’s great to push ourselves forward, outside of our comfort zone and see what we are capable of! Set our sights, be courageous and make it happen. Happy New Year, much positive energy even if from a distance 🙂

  10. I saw you on Feedspot’s top 35 running blogs, Stephanie. Such incredible distance races that are in the works for 2021. Hoping some of these became a reality for you. Love the “Barkley Philosophy”. (recall you were in one of the Barkley’s) I have only started running at 55 and now at 63 (although nothing compared to what you have accomplished and attempted), I am still trying stuff out of my comfort zone. My 1st year, a half marathon seemed so much out of reach. I am trying to stretch myself more and more each year. Thank you, Stephanie! 🙏

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