The Problem With New Year’s Resolutions

At the tail-end of 2014, a tall, very slim, fresh-faced first year decides that he needs to ‘bulk up’ for the upcoming GAA season. His immediate thoughts are that he can start on January 1st, 2015 – a clean slate, “new year, new me” and every other cliché he can think of. In the meantime he does nothing to contribute to his improvement, mentally citing his New Year’s resolution as the reason to avoid beginning the hard work. Come January 1st, it becomes more difficult than ever, and while he goes to the gym a couple of times, he sadly fails to meet his own expectations.

This was my most memorable experience of making a New Year’s resolution. My idea was that everything would change in the New Year; my attitude, motivation, willingness to work. Herein lies the problem with New Year’s resolution. A New Year’s resolution will be made well in advance of the turn of the year, and can often be met with anticipation, rather than proactive behaviour. Many people may believe that everything changes in the New Year, instead of making the change as soon as possible. It’s an issue that undoubtedly increases the chances of failure, as if you’re really willing to change, the impact is immediate.

There’s nothing wrong with having goals for the New Year. In fact, it’s what everyone should do to improve themselves. Goals and New Year’s resolutions however, are completely different stories. A goal for the next year means starting now to reach it by the end of that year. A New Year’s resolution involves starting on January 1st. People change their mind-sets every day. Setting a goal for the next year becomes your aim from the moment you make it, whereas a New Year’s resolution leaves the opportunity to back out.

Who would you believe more? A person who says they’ll start eating healthy next week, affording them the chance to tuck into 20 nuggets in McDonald’s before then, or a person who wants to eat healthier for a particular reason, and wants to start straight away? New Year’s resolutions leave a window of opportunity to slack off before even starting, a bad sign for someone trying to self-improve. Setting goals focuses the mind to what must be done, and it takes hold much more decisively.

This is not to say that everyone who sets a New Year’s resolution will fail to achieve it. We are well into the year, and January has dragged on for about three years at this stage. There are several people who have stuck to their resolutions resolutely. They are determined and motivated enough to follow through on their resolutions, and more power to them. It’s great to see people make good on their intentions.

The point here is that New Year’s resolutions are a lazier form of convincing yourself you can change for many people. It tricks your mind into believing you’re being productive when you’re actually at home on December 29th watching Countdown at half two in the afternoon because there’s nothing else on and you’re in love with Rachel Riley. The idea of setting goals as opposed to making resolutions means that the moment you set that goal, you’re ready to start towards achieving it. New Year’s resolutions provide a cheap way of backing out before you even get going. The tall, slim, (less) fresh-faced guy’s personal goal now is just to get stronger every year. It’s worked out pretty well so far.

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