New Year’s Resolutions: Why Bother?
By Clare He
I’m a serial list maker. I make lists to schedule my day, to track my spending, and even to record new movies I want to get around to watching. My most important list, however, is written on the 31st of December as the minutes count down to midnight. For as long as I can remember, I’ve attached a list of resolutions right above my desk at the start of each year, detailing personal goals like getting the highest mark in every class to more arbitrary ones like learning to rollerblade.
There are some psychological reasons for creating New Year’s resolutions. Entering a new year symbolizes a chance to start anew and make positive changes after the holiday season. It also relates to how our brains perceive the concept of time in relation to our memories. Psychologists say that we often compartmentalize our lives into portions of time, bookmarking each section by significant life events like weddings, the birth of a child, and the first day of school. Katy Milkman, a psychology professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says that the start of a new year acts like a division in your life narrative and that this break signals to your mind that it is time for a fresh start.
But more than 90% are incomplete by the time I begin to pull out a new sheet of paper the following year. As my old resolutions settle into my stack of unfulfilled goals of years past, I realize the objectives I had hoped to achieve have escaped me once again. And I’m not the only person who experiences disappointing results. According to a Forbes Magazine article, less than 25% of people remain on track by the end of the first month and only 8% follow through with their resolutions by the end of the year. So why do we bother with resolutions at all if all we do is break them?
Well, we shouldn’t feel that disappointed. In 2022, the meaning behind resolutions strayed far from simply wanting a new beginning. Resolutions in today’s world largely follow social ideals and unattainable lifestyle alterations. In fact, the top 3 most popular new year’s resolutions today are related to weight loss.
In addition, society’s cultural standards seem to perpetuate an illusion of perfection. Social media and other societal influences have sculpted an image of a “perfect” life, one without challenges and hiccups along the way. And often, New Year’s seems like the only time we can start over and erase the imperfections of the past year. There’s this idea of a “new you”: one that is flawless and faultless. Unfortunately, when the inevitable flaws of being human kick in, there is a sense you failed to get the job done.
This is precisely why I will not be making New Year’s resolutions anymore. If you chose to make resolutions this year, I don’t judge you for it. I don’t have an issue with the idea behind them; I like making long-term goals. However, I should be going into the next year feeling optimistic instead of starting every January with a reminder that I have fallen short of the “perfect person” I failed to become the year before. The anticipation of a new year should foster hope and excitement, not pressure to cross items off a piece of paper. Movie titles are a better use of my lists anyway.