A case against New Year’s Resolutions

I think I’m the only person I know who doesn’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I used to when I was younger, but I never followed through on any of them. When I was older I developed strategies for following through on my resolutions. I made plans. I made sure my resolutions were S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Yet, even with all of this planning and organizing, I still could not keep my resolutions beyond the first week in January.

After a few years of feeling guilty and beating myself up about this, I took a good hard look at why my New Year’s Resolutions may not work.

Why New Year’s resolutions often fail

January is a busy time of year

Usually there is a two-week holiday surrounding Christmas and the New Year. Vacations and visiting family and friends can cause major disruptions in routines and schedules. Getting back on track can be a chore in itself. Trying to re-vamp your life with resolutions during this time can be almost impossible.

December is often the fiscal year end

If you’re running a business and your fiscal year end is December 31, there may be the added work of bookkeeping and accounting to deal with on top of the vacations and visitors. Trying to implement your resolution of re-organizing your home when your business needs more of your time can create frustration and may lead to failure.

In the northern hemisphere, January has bad weather

For those in the north, January is cold and there is lots of snow and ice. There can be major power outages. Local governments may even declare states of emergency. During times like these, resolutions often fall by the wayside and may not be continued afterwards. You’re focused on staying warm and providing for your basic needs, in addition to it often being gloomy.

The date is arbitrary

With celebrations and champagne, the first day of January may feel like a momentous time. However, the celebration could be any day of the year. Except for adding new pages to your daily calendar and nursing a hangover, there isn’t any difference between January 1 and May 1.

Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions

Make your resolutions on another date

Your birthday is the start of another new year of your life. It may be the perfect time to start your resolutions. Many people choose the start of the new school year as a good date to make resolutions. The Chinese New Year or your country’s “National Day” may be ideal dates to start your resolutions. Religious holidays may also work well for you. Consider making resolutions for Ash Wednesday, Rosh Hashanah, or Diwali.

Make monthly resolutions

Choosing one resolution per month may work better for some people. Don’t feel that you must start on the first day of every month, either. If your birthday is on June 25, consider starting your monthly resolution on the 25th of each month.

Avoid resolutions and adopt a better habit

Since I’ve given up on resolutions, I just adopt better habits throughout the year. For example, my previous habit was eating chocolate as an afternoon pick-me-up. My new habit is eating a piece of fruit and drinking a glass of water. This habit took me only two weeks to adopt. It was very easy. Now, I don’t even think about the chocolate.

Some habits take longer to integrate into my life than others, but once it does become a habit then I examine my routines and see what other habits need to be improved.

The following are examples of small habit changes that can make big differences:

  • Clean the dinner dishes right after eating instead of checking email or watching TV.
  • Hang your keys on a hook on entering the house instead of leaving them in your coat pocket.
  • Write events in your planner as soon as they arrive in an email.
  • Hang your coat on a hook/hanger instead of draping it over a chair.
  • Prepare your lunch for work the night before instead of first thing in the morning.

You don’t have to put a dozen resolutions into effect on New Year’s Day to change your life. Just change one habit at a time, as it works best with your schedule. As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

12 Comments for “A case against New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. posted by Andrea on

    I totally agree with doing away with a list of resolutions. It always seemed defeatist to me in a way.

    And speaking of chocolate, I think that my consumption over the past few months probably raised the GDP of Switzerland. Need to get back on track!

    Happy new year to you all.

  2. posted by Jordan Michaels on

    I used to not make New Years Resolutions, but in the last couple of years my thinking has changed. Yes, January is busy and it is hard to accomplish them, but just having a goal makes it easier to get something I want to done once I have the time. For example, I like to work on my overall mental prowess, but some of the most useful techniques just take time. I don’t necessarily start in January, but once my time opens up I’ll start working on mnemonic techniques or other proven methods and just go from there. I have that goal now so I like to consider it a New Year’s resolution, even if I do not immediately start it during the New Year.

  3. posted by Isaac on

    Very nice point, most resolutions fail because they aren’t habits, they’re just wishes.

    To really fulfil these goals, you have to create habits, which build up to your goal gradually. It’s how Boldest Visions says, people lack commitment and decision, which is why most resolutions die within the first 2 weeks of the year.

  4. posted by Laurie Buchanan on

    I, too, refrain from New Year’s resolutions. Rather, I select a single word to focus on throughout the New Year: http://wp.me/pP1C5-1f8

  5. posted by Cari in North Texas on

    You aren’t the only one who doesn’t make New Year’s Resolutions – I haven’t done them in years. Thanks for the validation! I agree with a lot of your reasons why, also.

    I use April, or sometime around Easter, as the time to look at my life and make some goals. It’s springtime, the religious significance is important to me, and my work project is on hiatus between February and May. Sometimes I travel to a state park or just get out of town for a few days and focus on areas of my life I would like to improve.

  6. posted by Katie on

    I like the monthly goals idea… something that you’ll consciously work on throughout that month where hopefully it will become a habit and become easier, then continue adding in things. This is the concept that Weight Watchers has been using for the past year, setting a monthly routine to focus on and I’ve found that it works and helps take the pressure off of trying to accomplish everything at once.

  7. posted by Julie Bestry on

    I’m all for giving up resolutions. I stopped about 20 years ago when I realized that a day off/holiday is not likely the time when I’ll still to any of the patterns I normally would. Now, if there’s something I really want to do, I just tell someone I’m going to do it (to give myself some accountability) but I do like the idea of themed monthly goals and small projects. I didn’t finish, but I managed about 2/3 of the 30 Day Planking Challenge on Facebook by having accountability with other people. (I’m not sure anyone can jump from 2 to 4 minutes of planking in a matter of days!) Here’s to small goals, and starting them whenever the heck we’re ready to start! Every day is a new beginning!

  8. posted by Rhea on

    I haven’t made a resolution since junior high school. I then switched to making my lifetime to-do list. I write down all the things I want to do/see/experience/try before I die. Then my “resolution” is to do something off the list each year. Every January 1st, I would sit down and rewrite my list (priorities change). This is a tradition I was very good at sticking to for a while, but I need to pick it up again. I live that I wind up doing some of the big (or small) things that actually mean something to me.

  9. posted by [email protected] on

    So agree! I make monthly goals. I haven’t made New Year’s Resolutions for a LONG time! I’ve never understood why people think that just because the calendar changes to a new year they can suddenly do all the things they couldn’t do before. Switching to a new year isn’t magic. Switching to a new month isn’t either. Accomplishing goals still requires setting reasonable goals and working your tail off to accomplish them.

    My husband teaches an exercise class and as you would expect, the class if really full at the beginning of the year and drops off to “normal” by February.

  10. posted by Preeti on

    Making monthly goals is exactly the method I’ve been using for several years, with a pretty good success rate. Creating habits is hard work! Your breakdown of why resolutions often fail really resonated with me, so I linked to this post on my blog. Thanks for helping keep us on track for the new year!

  11. posted by Verity on

    I found this article to be a relief. Is never thought of not setting resolutions.

    I also like your other more effective solutions. This year our family just had a baby and will forgo resolutions to simply focus on what we were already doing – finding better habits that will help things move smoother as we adjust to our precious new member.

  12. posted by John Limpus on

    Absolutely agree. Routines rather than wishes are where we need to be focusing. Love the idea of doing it monthly too. Thanks for the article!

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