Be better on your own terms: Why resolutions are conceptually flawed


Courtesy of Creative Commons

Only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

There are five seasons in a year– Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, and late January, also known as the time when New Year’s resolutions die. After a month of putting in the effort to reach goals, destroy expectations and finally use a gym membership, the inevitable sinks in. Resolutions are not easy to stick with, as 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the first week of February. And there’s a reason for it.

The issue with resolutions is their vagueness and expectation of a long term victory with no plan to achieve it. “Getting skinny” is not a concrete way of thinking about losing weight, and “being happy,” while an amazing thing to strive for, means nothing without an actual structure in place to relieve stress and do things you love. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a better person, but it becomes hard to achieve if there is no definition of what being a better person is.

Setting monthly, doable goals is much more realistic, or even going about change on a day by day basis. Defining goals is key to making a resolution stick- a resolution is a final product, but the year should not be defined by the end game- the process is what is key.

Planning aside, there are more issues attached to the “resolution” ideology. New Year’s resolutions symbolize starting over entirely. New beginnings are quite enticing, as one is leaving behind everything that went wrong the past year.

This mentality is another reason resolutions don’t work. Part of changing a lifestyle is remembering what went wrong and learning from it, not pretending it never happened. It seems that we only remember the past to make ourselves feel guilty, throwing self pity parties and giving in when things get tough. Instead of feeling guilty about missteps and throwing away a goal, understanding that there is room for improvement can help destroy that all-or-nothing mentality.

Another pivotal issue with starting the resolution at the beginning of the year is timing. Improving your life does not start in January and end in December. It’s a constant process that has no bounds. Giving up one month in doesn’t mean the next month won’t be better.

Instead of being constrained by a calendar, resolutions should be a year long process. Who cares if you don’t act on your resolutions until September. It’s less about the resolution and more about the individual. Throw away the calendar and listen to what you really need.

Resolutions are not an ultimatum. They’re a starting point. If change is the end goal, plan and start with little steps. The year long resolution is a scam and will fail on its own due to a lack of structure and expectations that are way too high. Change takes more than a vision board and a wish. It takes hard work and a little bit of failure, which is neither glamorous or easy. Leave resolutions behind and adopt a vision of realism.