Broken Resolutions: A Vicious Cycle

Ah, the new year. The fitness center sees new faces that have either been long absent or never attended before, low calorie food and diet sodas replace pizza and beer, packs of cigarettes hit the trash can — all in the name of self-improvement for 2013. The new year is the perfect time, right? As Lenore, the prostitute in “Forrest Gump” said, “Everybody gets a second chance.”

But, let’s see how long all of those wonderful life changes last.

According to a University of Scranton study, 62 percent of Americans make New Years resolutions. That’s a lot of optimism packed into each fresh January. Typical resolutions include managing debt, curbing drinking, quitting smoking and the never-ending quest to get fit and lose weight. These are just a few of the many goals set for starting off the new calendar year right.

With all of that flare for improvement, one would think there would be this wonderful, productive cycle of continuous advancement each year. The truth, however, paints a more disappointing picture: The same Scranton study found that of all the people who set New Years resolutions, a mere 8 percent achieve those goals. When the year begins, 25 percent of people attempting them have already failed to maintain their resolutions. After six months only 46 percent of people are still working to maintain their resolutions. Ain’t self-improvement grand?

Why is it so hard for us to stick to our yearly declarations to become better people? Among many failed resolutions, there is a commonality: People don’t like the resolutions they make. This could mean anything from being miserable by depriving one’s self of delicious thick crust bacon pizza with extra chocolate sprinkles to suffering through P90X workout hells — all the while agitating your significant other because those bacon pizza withdrawals are driving you insane.

The grand goal of kicking smoking or dropping 83 pounds to get back to your high school pant size may have incredible payoff, but getting there feels next to impossible when you hate yourself and your life every step of the way. Then at the end of it, you’re back at Dairy Queen sucking down an extra large Butterfinger Blizzard wondering what went wrong.

This isn’t to say New Years resolutions are a complete waste of time and sanity. There are ways to ensure you’ll actually complete them, or at least make good strides toward doing so. Identify changes to make in your life that are steps in the right direction but still livable. Chopping out all trans fats and sugar to live on a 500 calorie per day diet may hurt your health, not to mention your sanity. However, kicking high-sugar sodas in favor of diet drinks is livable and attainable.

Making important changes in one’s life is the only way to move forward to being a thinner/less smoky/more frugal/better-job-having person, but you can’t torture yourself along the way. Make your goals reasonable and your steps to get there manageable. If the temptation to give up is already knocking at the door, consider toning down your approach. That way, you can actually keep your resolution.