The delusion of new year's resolutions
It’s mid-February, which means you probably forgot about your new year’s resolutions already.
If that’s the case, it would still be unfair to blame you, as so many people partake in this yearly tradition without any hesitation or questioning, just like they might do a toast, count down loudly from 10 just before midnight, or watch some fireworks.
With all the seriousness of a drunken person saying they’ll never drink again, people throw all sorts of life-changing milestones to the pool: this is the year they lose that extra weight, read those books, visit those relatives, make that project, behave better toward their loved ones. This is the year they change for the better.
Of course, the boy who cried wolf also claimed that this time there really was a wolf out there, so why would we believe your plans for weight loss and not the boy’s warning?
One problem with associating these goals with the new year is that life-improving changes are supposed to be permanent, while the year is cyclic in nature. Nobody really goes and says “I’ll work harder this year, but I’ll go back to being lazy after that.”
Moreover, in the grand scheme of things, one year is so small with respect to a lifetime, that giving up becomes an almost natural step when difficulties arise, as one can always start afresh next January. That’s why people forget very quickly about the lesser goals, and quit halfway toward the more important ones.
Going back to the drunk person analogy, it strikes me as odd that people would share these intimate details of their life in the midst of a mundane and loud celebration. I can only conclude that they’re not really taking any of it seriously. It’s just a sad mixture of boasting and group clinging.
Never too early
What, then, are the alternative ways of setting our sights on those elusive life improvements?
Any self-help or motivational speech will declare at some point that it is never too late to start doing something. Interestingly enough, they never speak about a moment being too early.
As for life-changing objectives, I claim that it’s indeed never too early, at least in the sense of “waiting until January”. There might be a case for doing certain things at an age when the toll on your body is minimized, such as extreme sports, in which case to stop doing them at 20 might be too early. Similarly, if you’re an actor or an athlete that needs to gain weight for an upcoming performance or a competition, losing that extra weight now might also be too early.
But disregarding exceptional cases, why would you wait until the calendar turns to do something that you know is going to improve your life?
If we’re honest with ourselves, there’s no convincing reason to delay a positive change.
Moreover, there’s also no reason to make these decisions public. It just trivializes them, giving them all the relevance of this week’s trending hashtag.
In a world of increasing pressure to share our thoughts and feelings, an intimate corner of your mind that you keep to yourself can help you retain your identity and value as an individual. If you’re going to set some far-reaching goals, you better do it there. Nobody will give you a like or a favorite for it, but you won’t forget about it in a few weeks, either.
Make your new year’s resolutions your personal resolutions, and don’t tie them to the calendar. When you succeed, you might not even have the urge to share it with the world and exchange it for some virtual cheers.