The resolution you set for yourself a couple days before New Year’s Eve is probably going to fail.
Obviously this isn’t groundbreaking analysis. Multiple researches have shown that somewhere around 75 per cent of people will give up their New Year’s resolution within the first couple weeks of making it. Barely 30 per cent of the people who do make resolutions will come anywhere near completing it. And even if they do, how can we know if it actually ended up being a positive change?
Similar studies show that the most common New Year’s resolutions are body image, fitness, or diet related (also known as losing weight). Will getting on a diet pill or starving yourself make you less fat? Yeah, probably. Will it make you healthier? Absolutely not. There’s a lot more that goes into becoming healthier than just losing weight, and a simple last-second New Year’s resolution doesn’t do it justice.
These resolutions don’t fail because people aren’t competent enough to achieve their goals, but because the culture and narrative surrounding the typical New Year’s resolution is flawed. We focus too much on the negative aspects of ourselves, the debilitating flaws and crippling inadequacies we believe that we have, and we ignore the actual detailed, step-by-step process that unfolds over a long period of time that it would take to actually make a massive change in our lifestyles.
Besides, if you’re using New Year’s as some arbitrary starting line for which you can finally begin to actively make changes in your life, odds are you aren’t very emotionally invested in doing so. What’s the difference between deciding to go to the gym more in August than January? Why can’t you stop drinking in April? If you’re truly ready and able to commit to something, surely you won’t wait until an arbitrary point in time to start doing it.
If you’re looking into making a quick, poorly thought out life change right now, you were probably peer pressured into doing so. Maybe it was the glut of advertisements babbling on about “being better” and creating a “new you” as businesses aggressively shove the rhetoric that “there’s no better time than New Year’s to make a sweeping change” in our faces, or maybe it was one of your Facebook acquaintances posting about all the changes that they’re hoping to make. Regardless, there’s a very good chance that this was a spur of the moment decision that didn’t encompass a tremendous amount of thought. And because of that, we set ourselves up to fail.
Long story short, there are a whole boat-load of reasons as to why New Year’s resolutions are flawed and why you shouldn’t bother with them. I think we all know that by now. That said, the phenomenon of “New year, new you” isn’t something that we need to disregard completely.
The New Year provides us with a nice, convenient time to begin tracking and monitoring the things that we do.
Like I said, one of the biggest reasons these things tend to blow up in our faces a couple weeks in is the fact that they’re unrealistic and poorly thought out. Becoming healthy, cutting out liquor or cigarettes, or being a happier and more fulfilled person are huge undertakings that demand a serious understanding of how we generally spend our time and how it makes us feel.
I mean, it’s one thing to say exercising on a regular basis and eating better food will result in me being healthier (and happier by consequence), but it’s another thing to understand why I eat poor food and avoid the gym in the first place.
Take this New Year as a time to start keeping track of the stuff you do. Look at when you eat food, when you wake up, when you watch TV, when you fall asleep, etc. Then think about changes you want to make, and try to fit them in.
You want to go to the gym more? Look at the slots in which you have free time, and fit it in there. Try the morning, try evening, and try late night, and log which time you liked the most. Want to eat better food? Take a look at when you eat your snacks or when you tend to get fast food. Is there a way to squeeze home packed lunches in there? Are you eating crap because you’re bored? Whatever it is, track information about your tendencies so that later on down the road, when you’re really ready to make a big push on a lifestyle change, you understand what works for you and what doesn’t.
We aren’t all the same person — buying a pair of nice running shoes isn’t going to make every single one of us more likely to go to the gym like the ever-prevalent advertisements suggest. Take the time to figure yourself out, and maybe in doing so you’ll stumble upon a way to improve your lifestyle: because I can assure you that the half-assed resolution you set for yourself won’t.