New Year’s Resolutions
In a Time Magazine article a few years back, these were the top five New Year’s resolutions:
- Lose Weight
- Get Organized
- Spend Less, Save More
- Enjoy Life to the Fullest
- Stay or Get Fit and Healthy
Sounds about right, topical and mainstream. The article went on to present data, listing the adherence percentage of a study group towards certain resolutions. Example: weight-related resolutions came in at a 38% success rate of being achieved. The data also displayed the age success rate. I fell into the 14% of people over fifty who achieve their resolutions (depressing). And finally, the length those resolutions actually last: 75% of those polled keep theirs through the first week, but only 46% endured their self-avowed pledges past six months.
Psychology Today takes it a step further and tells us why most of our resolutions fail:
- Our expectations were not realistic (are they ever?).
- Our resolutions were not properly defined.
- We didn’t have the right mindset.
- Time management skills are lacking.
- We’re living distracted (ya think?)
In the earlier decades of my life putting forth New Year’s resolutions was the accepted, almost required, norm. Each New Year’s Day I spewed forth promises of determined goals, projects of personal attainment and achievement that I knew would require adjustments in my lifestyle, sacrifices that previously I was ill-prepared to endure. There was a New Year’s Day when I was much younger, I was walking home in the cold and the snow from having spent a night partying at a friend’s house, and I was contemplating my worth, realizing I had to do better than what I was doing in order to make the future work. Jump ahead a few years: I’m walking aimlessly on New Year’s Day, living in sunny, southern California, it’s eighty degrees out and I spent the night at a friend’s apartment but with little memory of what went down. I moved to California as part of a resolution to attempt to find myself and who I was. Then and there, strolling past the palm trees and the endless vista of tar and concrete I swore…I RESOLVED to myself, yet again, I had to do better to make the future work. My point? Resolutions need more than just the initial promise to yourself, they need a redundancy, a back-up plan, otherwise it’s “be careful what you wish for…”.
Self-made promises abounded in my rhetoric to family and friends on January 1st. I can’t begin to remember how many years I pledged to learning Spanish (que?), lose X amount of pounds, find a more meaningful career, get my pilot’s license, visit Europe, have my work published, etc. Okay, that last one came about, but it took forty years of resolutions before it happened, and I am still fat, grounded, know maybe five words in Spanish and have yet to see beyond America’s shores.
Nowadays, New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. I don’t know anyone who proclaims a determination of self-achievement beyond “This year I swear I’m going to…” That’s somewhat of a resolution I guess, but most of the time what they swore they would do is forgotten before the celebration of New Year is over and as the effects of alcohol or some other stimulant leaves their system, so too does the vow they trumpeted in the course of the evening.
The origin of making New Year’s resolutions rests with the Babylonians who reportedly made promises to the Gods in hopes they’d earn good favor in the coming year. They often resolved to get out of debt, or live past the age of thirty-five. Difference is, their calendar year began in Spring, in the month of Araḫ Nisānu or Month of the Sanctuary. I think it’s easier to see the world full of promise, and to feel the confidence that the value of your self-worth can be improved when birds are in the air and flowers are blooming. Maybe forget setting resolutions for yourself on January 1st, change it to May 1st. I promise you they’ll be easier to keep.
Resolutions just aren’t that important any longer, the generations that came after mine weren’t exposed to this social idiosyncrasy to the degree that we were. In today’s fast-paced high-tech world, committing oneself to a personal goal is predicated by the availability of having an app on your phone that will get it done for you.
RjCook is the author of Dream Lover & Other Tales & The Road Behind Me (The Lie of Hannah) author.to/rjcook