Coping in Isolation: New Year, Same Me


 By: Jessica Satya Graha

Edited by: Kumaran Manivannan

It is now February 1st and according to Forbes, 80% of people have may have already given up on their new year resolutions. In fact, a study of 800 million people across the globe in 2019 conducted by Strava, found that January 19th is the day most people quit on their new years resolutions.

At the start of the year, we typically make promises and big plans motivated by a sense of renewal. We set lofty goals and high expectations upon ourselves to do better this year. So when we don’t meet our high expectations… we get disappointed, throw our hands in the air, and wait for the next year to roll around so it coincides with the ‘perfect time’ to set new goals.

It would be more mindful if we are able to reconfigure how we conceptualise our framework of new-years goals and resolution. We regard goals as a destination when it should really be a compass that gives us a sense of direction to align us with our desired outcome. As the cliche saying goes; ‘It's the not the destination, It's the journey.’

We have seen from the past couple of years that there are things that we simply can not change. Unprecedented turbulence. Unforecasted events. Uncharted waters. No matter how adaptive our systems are, or how much we prepare ourselves for what is to come…there will always be things that are out of our control.

So instead of writing an article to motivate you and jump on the trend in making new years resolutions…we are bringing you an article on how to accept the unchangeable. How to make peace with those factors in life that you simply can’t control.


The first step to most difficult things in life…is acceptance. We need to accept that there are factors in life that are outside of our control.

For many, losing control is a big fear. We believe that holding on is a sign of great strength, but there are times when there is more strength to know when to let go. Letting go of the illusion of control.

Not knowing is uncomfortable. We delude ourselves that staying informed and micro-managing everything, will keep us safe. It is the discomfort of the unknown that motivates us to hold on even tighter

Acceptance ≠ Giving up

Acceptance is not the same as giving up. Only after accepting the limitations that are out of our control, are we able to channel our energy and motivation towards our goals.

The tighter we hold on to the things we can’t control, we lose our grip on the things we actually can control. Our emotions. Our actions.

A lot of our new year resolutions are formulated on extrinsic beliefs. To exercise more to achieve our ‘summer body’. To get better grades to make our parents proud. Yet once again, we delude that we can control how others perceive us. However, our happiness, joy and self-worth shouldn’t be dictated by others.

Practising self-compassion

So what happens when we fail at our goals due to factors that are within our control?

After a few failures, most of us will be disappointed and return to our old habits. However, creating lasting change not only takes time, but also showing ourself kindness when we inevitably stumble along the way.

Most of us have been taught that we must succeed at all costs; that any outcome other than the expected, is perceived as failure. As children, we are rewarded for winning and punished for making mistakes to the point we are fearful of exploring or trying anything new.

You are still able to practice self-compassion, but still have high-standards.

Talking about ‘self-compassion’ may seem quite ‘mushy’ to some. Yet there is a lot of research that has been conducted exploring self-compassion and its impact on our wellbeing.

A study has shown that those who practice self-compassion do not get as upset when they don’t reach their goals compared to those who are harshly self-critical. They have less performance anxiety and are more likely to get back up and try again.

The study was done to explore the effects of self-compassion on students’ motivation to persevere after doing poorly on a vocabulary test.

A group to mimic practising self-compassion was told

“If you had difficulty with the test you just took, you’re not alone. It’s common for students to have difficulty with tests like this. If you feel bad about how you did, try not to be too hard on yourself.”

Another group was given a self-esteem boost, which said,

“If you had difficulty with the test you just took, try not to feel bad about yourself – you must be intelligent if you got into Berkeley!”

A third group of participants was given no additional instructions.

The students were next told that they would receive a second vocabulary test and were given a list of words and definitions they could study for as long as they wanted before taking it. Study time was used as a measure of improvement motivation.

The students who were told to be self-compassionate (the first group) after failing the first test spent more time studying than those in the other two conditions. Even though the experiment didn’t directly lead to improved performance, it was able to increase study time, which in turn predicted higher test scores.

So what do we learn from this?

Not accomplishing our new year’s resolutions 100% of the time or our goals in life is inevitable. There are infinite factors in life that are out of our control. In fact, we control very little. We don’t control what happens to us, what people say and do and even at times, our own bodies. When we get sick, we are at the mercy of the illness and have no choice but to give ourselves a break. But one thing is certain… we control how we think, react and act.