Why New Year’s resolutions should look outwards as well as inwards

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We all want to be better. Even the most outwardly successful and accomplished person could list a number of things they’d like to change about their health, their career or their lifestyle. We want to get to that idealised version of ourselves and every New Year promises a fresh chance to realise this dream; the turning of the calendar giving us a much-needed nudge of motivation. We make lists, sign up to classes, buy new sportswear. We start to fantasise about the New Me and all the good things that will come their way. 

In data published by YouGov at the end of last month, the top three resolutions made in the UK are to do more exercise, lose weight and improve on diet, with 47% of people saying they had vowed to improve their fitness. Tucked down at the bottom of the list, however, was a different kind of resolution. Respondents were asked if their pledges ever centred on volunteering or charity work, but only 6% said yes. We’re so intent on looking in that we’ve forgotten we need to look out.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and wanting to improve your health – these things are important and legitimate concerns. But we can’t afford to have our gaze turned continuously inwards. The world is in a time of unprecedented crisis: homelessness is rapidly rising internationally, climate change disasters are wreaking havoc across the globe and one in ten people are forced to live on less than $2 a day. There are millions around the world whose New Year’s dreams are reduced to survival. Left unattended, these crises will only be exacerbated and millions more suffer. The time for action has to be now.

Faced by the immense need and pain in the world it’s easy to become overwhelmed and disconnect from it. But the good news is we can make a difference. Any time we reach out to others we’re reshaping the world into something better and when these individual actions add together they help create the world we long for. We’re not powerless – but we must resolve to make a difference.

It’s still January and it’s not too late to make a new resolution for this year. Whether you’re smashing your 2020 goals or starting to fall behind, why not add an outward-looking ambition to your list. Volunteer your time at a food bank, in a refugee centre, in a charity shop, on a mental health hotline. Give up one coffee a week and give that money as a monthly charity donation. Get together with friends to fundraise for a cause close to your hearts. Join a campaign for international rights. Your options are limitless. 

If you’re worrying about lack of time you could even combine your exercise goals with your outreach efforts. Running a sponsored race or something more adventurous – last year a team of our supporters canoed 100 miles in the Wye Valley – is a tried and tested way to raise fitness levels and funds simultaneously. Exercising for a cause also addresses flagging motivation as the benefit you’re bringing others helps push you out the door on cold, dark training nights!

This January, let’s make some new, new year’s resolutions – ones which look outwards as well as in. In 2020 we want to better ourselves but we need a better world too. It’s up to every one of us to achieve it.