Every year, Americans commit to improving themselves at the beginning of the new year. That resolve lasts about as long as most college students’ goal to study more and Netflix less. The whole idea of New Year’s Resolutions is pretty much a cop-out for those who lack the resolve to commit to life changes without a massive cultural movement. One would hope that after years of unfulfilled goals, people would abandon the redundant and inane tradition of resolutions for something more feasible. Alas, last year’s resolution to campaign against folly petered out after the first couple weeks.
About 44 percent of Americans said they would make resolutions with the beginning of 2016. Of those, over a quarter of them will give up their resolutions by the end of the first week. This is one of the primary reasons New Year’s Resolutions are counterproductive. It is as if Americans decide “Well, hey, I forgot to go to the gym today… I guess I’ll try again in 362 days.” Thus end the well-intentioned goals of so many. The problem with trying to reinvent oneself at the dawn of a new year is that a special significance is tied to the date and not to the objective. July 22 is just as valid of a day to stop smoking as Jan. 1.
Unfortunately, society has come to view mistakes as failures. In a study conducted by the University of Scranton, only 19 percent of the testers had kept their resolution after two years. During that time, 53 percent of those who successfully kept their resolution made at least one slip up, with the average being 14 slip-ups per person. These did not prevent the participants from completing their goal as they still considered themselves successful after two years. They simply had to look at their game plan in a new way.
The biggest mistake made with New Year’s Resolutions is creating vague and impractical goals. A survey conducted in December 2014 indicated that the top four resolutions were to lose weight, exercise more, be a better person and improve health. These all sound great. If this pattern continued beyond the first seven days of the year, North America could potentially be a wonderland of healthy, upbeat people. In reality, all of those aspirations involve a lot more work and planning than hastily scrawled resolutions would indicate. A Google trend search shows that there is a huge spike in the number of times people enter “diet” and “gym” into Google during January, a number which steadily declines until the following January. Gyms make so much money during the beginning of the year because people buy memberships they will use a few times before their commitment peters out. And what physical manifestations prove the relative success of those attempting to “be better people”?
There are more practical ways of growing into the person one intends to be. Any day of the school year, one can make use of the free gym membership paid for by tens of thousands of tuition dollars. It is possible to smile more today even if yesterday an organic chemistry test became an impromptu tissue for tears of regret and inevitable failure. This year, resolve to do whatever you want, for however long you want, for whatever results you are willing to work for.