by Emily Thompson
Some New Year’s Resolutions can be difficult to maintain which can lead to disappointment when not accomplished. (Courtesy of Julia Comerford)
You might have noticed over Winter Break that right as New Year’s Eve approached, your T.V. was meticulously interrupted by commercials for new diet programs, weight loss regimens and exercise equipment. This is no coincidence. As I sat through the 100th commercial of models telling me about “judgement-free gyms” and “a week’s worth of free protein shakes,” I felt guilty sitting in my pajamas and having no such goal. The pressure to create New Year’s resolutions creeps into our lives whether we realize it or not.
It is understandable why New Year’s resolutions are appealing. For one, they are universally acknowledged. It feels as if the whole world is rooting for you, that the tradition itself is carrying half the burden of following through. There is also the power of an idealistic “new start.” Trying to save money or spend more time with your family (or whatever the goal may be) feels achievable when you know that the burdens of the past are left in the previous year. This concept allows one to shed any negativity and become open to a new year, a new challenge, a new… you. It is exciting and motivating. There is a feeling of good luck to the tradition which makes the most daunting goals seem manageable.
I think New Year’s resolutions can be equated to focusing a camera. The fuzzy, hypothetical charm of these goals is not always consistent with the harsh reality of achieving them. It is all a bit too ideal, as if the time of year will make the resolution finally stick. But, if you are not able to commit to a goal the other three hundred and sixty four days of the year one day will not be any different. The root problem with New Year’s resolutions is that we all like the concept of a fresh beginning, but it is more about the tradition than personal commitment to change. They force us to focus on only one goal and set ourselves up for disappointment if it fails. New Year’s resolutions are often made on a whim and are too tremendous to achieve.
People that feel pressure to continue their new workout routine or diet based on a tradition means that their goal is not usually personal enough for them to follow through. This year both of my best friends and my parents created New Year’s Resolutions. I felt pressured to create one just to avoid explaining why I didn’t. However, goals must be meaningful to be effective. You must have a stake in them and their outcome. You need to be more connected to it than you would be to a silly tradition.
New Year’s resolutions have a reputation for being broken, which is quite ironic given that they are supposed to achieve the opposite effect. The point of goal-setting is to lift us up and leave us in a better position than the one at which we started. A few years ago, I promised myself on Jan. 1 that I would drink seven glasses of water per day. But as someone who often describes myself as permanently dehydrated, this goal was just too far a stretch from my normal habits. When the day rolled around and I had not fulfilled my new goal, I felt like all hope for a good year was gone.
When my New Year’s resolution failed, I was flooded with guilt for being too weak to follow through. According to Forbes, a 2013 Scranton University poll concludes that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s’ resolutions- a statistic so low it is a wonder why we all still make them. So, if you have the overwhelming urge to create a New Year’s resolution, it is best to be honest about what type of change you can actually commit to and if it will leave you happier than you were when you started. It is clear to me that one of the pitfalls of this tradition is how much stake people put in a resolution only once per year.
If that is the only time you are willing to commit, it probably is not important enough to you. Instead, daily or monthly goals may lead to more success and the change we all wish for. Start a new book. Try a new yoga class. These are not monumental changes, but they can give you something new to look forward to every day.
Personally, since my last failed New Year’s resolution, I have been resolute in not making them. Seems backwards, I know. Instead, each day I try to find the tiny things that make me happy, because they matter more than any monumental change to which I try and commit. I do not want to become so unhappy that I put all of my faith into one goal. Instead of focusing on an unrealistic concept, focus on what already makes your life fabulous, whether it is Jan. 1 or any other day.
Emily Thompson, FCRH ’21, is a journalism major from Norwalk, Connecticut.