Resolutions

Posted on January 4, 2013

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“A New Year’s resolution is a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. A key element to a New Year’s resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings. People committing themselves to a New Year’s resolution generally plan to do so for the whole following year. This lifestyle change is generally interpreted as advantageous.”

Wikipedia

Really, though, who does this anymore? I hear about it on TV; it shows up in some movies (as a plot device); and other media sources (such as radio) like to talk about it at this time of year. But who is actually making these promises? What are they resolving to do (or not do)? Are they ever successful?

I ask these questions because my experience with the New Year’s Resolution has never been positive. I’ve personally made a resolution once or twice in my lifetime. I know very few people who ever talk about them, and when they do, it’s usually in jest. This leads me to wonder whether the whole concept has any traction in American culture anymore or if it’s just something we pay lip-service to (like Sunday Christians during the holidays).

Here’s what I’ve found:

  • About 45% of Americans claim to “usually make New Year’s Resolutions.”
  • 38% never make them and 17% occasionally make them.
  • Pretty much 100% of resolutions are based on some form of self-improvement. (The statistics I’m referencing break down the categories, but I consider things like “lose weight” or “spend less, save more” derive from the overarching theme of self-improvement.)
  • Of those who make resolutions, about 8% are highly likely to succeed.
  • 24% never succeed and 49% have infrequent success.
  • By June or July, close to 50% of resolutions fail.

So about half of the nation will make at least one resolution this year but 9 out of 10 will fail. Why? What is it about human nature that makes us so resistant to change?

I’m not going to answer that question. I have my own ideas and I’ll write about them eventually (like different techniques for successful change), but not today. Instead I want to pose the issue to the audience. Please tell me what you think. If this is something that piques your interest, please look it up. Psychologists have been studying this for years, so I know there’s data out there. I also know, through my own experience, that there are tricks and techniques we can use to force change in our lives. I also believe that God can change us if He wants to, sometimes whether we let Him or not, but again, that’s something I want to write about (at length) at a later time.

For what it’s worth, though, I have a resolution to declare: 31 posts in 31 days. It’s the 4th, so I’m already three posts behind (I think I can catch up in the next couple of hours). My goal is (as always) to improve my writing; it’s also to focus on the stated purpose of this blog. After all, if I’m going to hold my children to a standard, I should be able to hold myself to the same. (By the way, a great technique for resolutions is the one I just used: tell someone about it. That way, when you’re not “feeling motivated,” you can rely on your family/friends to hold you to your own standards.)

Once again: Why is it so hard for us to change? Do you make resolutions every year, or did you make one this year? What’s your plan to make it happen?

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Posted in: Philosophy