Calvin & Hobbes Resolutions

The Case Against New Year’s Resolutions

Statistics New Year's Resolutions

Like many folks out there, you may have written up your list of 2014 resolutions: New Year’s resolutions that will shake up your life, make you a better person and generally bring you luck and success.

Also, like most people (according to the website StatisticBrain.com), you will probably fail to stick to your resolutions. In fact, only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals.

But hey, that’s okay! Why? Because making resolutions is a completely unproductive way to go about initiating change in ourselves! Here’s why:

1. New Year’s Resolutions Are Unrealistic

Most of the New Year’s goals we set are based on a desire to become an idealized version of ourselves.

Calvin & Hobbes ResolutionsAccording to a quick Google search, the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, get in shape, learn something new, quit smoking, and eat better (or diet). Usually, by the month of February these good intentions have been forgotten and we’ve reverted to old habits. As a result, we probably feel bad about ourselves.

That’s because, in the absence of real motivation, desire or need to improve our quality of life, these resolutions reflect a want to look and feel the way society says we should.

Losing weight, for instance, is a long, involved and often trying process (trust me, I went through it in 2012). It’s easy to think, “Sure, I can lose 10 lbs this year,” but without real motivation or a reason to work for that goal, it’s unlikely that we’ll actually get there.

If you really want to make a resolution, think long and hard about what it should be, and how willing you are to actually work for it.

2. We Make Too Many Resolutions at Once

I LOVE making lists! I make them all the time! Packing lists, grocery lists, to do lists, lists of the reasons I’m awesome, etc…

But the one time (and perhaps the only time because lists are the best) when a list is inappropriate is when it comes to your New Year’s goals.

Honestly, do you really think you can learn a new language, read 500 books, quit smoking AND lose 20 lbs all in one year?! Yeah, there may be people out there who could, and they’re called over-achievers and they probably have no social lives.

But most of us regular Joes can barely handle one of those commitments, let alone all of them. So tone it down a notch and stick to one thing that you can really focus on. For instance, learning to knit! (It’s just a thought…)

3. Resolutions Are Overwhelming

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, part of the reason we fail at our New Year’s resolutions is because we set ourselves abstract goals.

Absurdly Unattainable New Year's ResolutionsDuhigg writes that the most effective way to think about resolutions is to frame them as baby steps for us to take to improve or change our habits. By making small, manageable modifications to our behavior, we should be able to achieve the larger goals we set for ourselves.

Thinking of a resolution as project can help. Last year, my project was to design and launch my own website. I did some research and determined the baby steps I needed to take to get to that point. Voilà! You are gazing upon the result! (Thanks!)

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Like giving up something for Lent, New Year’s resolutions are fashionable and like most things à la mode, they’re often meaningless. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making these classic mistakes. Set yourself a realistic goal, then outline the baby steps you need to take to get there.

This year, I want to take a creative writing class. My first baby step? A simple Google search…