Why I Probably Won’t Make a New Year’s Resolution (but I Will Make Resolutions in the New Year)

As we close in on 2019, the expected buzz about New Year’s resolutions has come and, over the next few days, will have gone. I don’t really have any problem with resolutions. As an aspirational exercise, I’m sure that it has some value. Maybe some people even follow through and keep their resolutions. That’s not been my experience…I don’t recall making one that I’ve ever kept.

Why? I think there are a few reasons that I’ve had a hard time keeping New Year’s resolutions:

  1. They are generally motivated by the New Year’s fervor– I get to the end of a year, look back at what I wish I would have accomplished and decide (along with many other people) that this will be the year that I lose the extra weight, travel more, read more, watch less TV, etc. I may well want to accomplish what I resolve to accomplish, but often making New Year’s resolutions seems more like a habit or a cultural phenomenon (just something that people do around New Years) than a well-thought-through statement of commitment and discipline required to accomplish the goal. Ask yourself: Am I really committed to accomplishing this goal no matter what? Do I have the capacity and support from others I will need to accomplish the goal?
  2. A year is a long time– Without some sense of planning, or strategy for how I am going to accomplish my resolution across the year, the sheer length of time involved makes it challenging to stay on track. The more time I have, the easier it is to procrastinate and put the resolution on the back-burner. If I really want to accomplish something, I need to be sure that I have some smaller, intervening goals that will help me move toward the bigger goal. Ask yourself: what do I need to do in the next 30 days in order to accomplish this year-end goal? Am I really ready and willing to do that?
  3. Time is arbitrary– Will Hunting was right when he identified the arbitrary nature of the coffee date and recommended eating a bunch of caramels instead (If you haven’t seen Good Will Hunting, resolve to watch it in 2019). New Year’s resolutions are similarly arbitrary. Just because the calendar flips and the ball drops doesn’t actually mean anything necessary to accomplish a goal has changed…I have essentially the same life, responsibilities, strengths and weaknesses as I had a day before. So…while it is convenient for a number or reasons to start at the beginning of something (no matter how arbitrary), I can’t assume that with the new year will actually come new resolve or new capabilities. No magical switch has been flipped in 2019 to make achieving my goals that much more possible…I have to change my behaviors, reprioritize my life, and do what it takes to give myself a shot at making whatever change I want to make stick. Ask yourself: What needs to change about my own resolve or situation in order to make this a good time for me to move toward achieving this goal? What has changed that makes achieving this goal possible now?

So, if I won’t be making a new year’s resolution, does that mean I won’t make any new resolutions this year? Not at all.

I’ll set goals and do the work to accomplish them…I just won’t make them at New Years. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been closing up a fair amount of end-of-year work, driving to see family and friends, attending holiday events, etc. I’m tired and, frankly, not in the right mental space to be assessing my priorities for the next year. I’ll get through the holidays, pull out my long-term goals, and begin laying out some plans for 2019.

If your holiday season is anything like mine, you aren’t in a great position to start determining what you want to do in the new year either. Take some time to really consider what you want to accomplish, what limitations you have, what you would be willing to give up in order to do something else, etc. If you have that time now, great…just don’t feel pressured by the switch from 2018 to 2019 to make a resolution.

Remember, resolutions aren’t meant to be conversation pieces at your New Year’s Eve party…they are meant to be expressions of your actual resolve to make changes in your life. So, focus on making a resolution that you’ll keep…not making a New Year’s resolution you won’t.