New Years Resolutions Are Stupid

First, and most importantly: HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friends! It has to get better? Right?

::ducks as flaming murder hornets covered in plague and looking like Carol Baskin fly my way::

Anywho, we’re now at the start of a new and hopefully better yeah. 2021 – like every new year – means new beginnings, a chance to make a better year and a better you. So, that means it’s time for New Years Resolutions, right? Time to pledge to lose weight, get in shape, learn that 8th language, whatever.

Please…don’t do that. Don’t make a resolution. Just make the change.

32 pounds and eight and a half years ago, I was sitting on the couch with my wife. I was complaining about my wife. I weighed way, way too much. My pants were tighter. The scale was making me sad. I was only 29 but I felt much older. After a disappointing trip to the scale, I turned to my wife and complained. Finally, she said the magic words to me:

“So, what are you going to do about it?”

It was the only question that mattered. And she was right, of course. I downloaded the LiveStrong app, began counting calories, and got myself into shape. It obviously wasn’t easy, but I’m now 37 and in the best shape of my life.

For purposes of this story, here’s the important point: It wasn’t New Years. It wasn’t a resolution. I just felt lousy and decided to make a change. No, of course it isn’t that easy. But New Year’s resolutions typically suck. In my mind, it’s a deferral. “After New Years, I’m gonna get into shape.” Why wait? Why not just start doing something about it now?

This has always just been my personal belief, but as it turns out, I’m not wrong! Mental health organizations have previously warned that, since so many New Year’s resolutions fail, they can be bad for mental health, triggering feelings of inadequacy or failure. There can be so much pressure from New Year’s resolutions that it can actually put us into a bit of a depression!

According to other writings, this comes from unrealistic expectations that New Years Resolutions often engender. According to that article, most resolutions don’t even make it past January. This, in turn, can lead to fears of failure. A better approach? Make a bunch of little goals that are more realistic, centered around a larger goal. This gives you an obtainable target, one that you then feel better about when you hit. Then you move to the next one.

Yeah, this wasn’t a strictly mental health blog, per se. But it is one that can be a major source of stress for some. And, more to the point, I think it’s really important that we keep a sense of agency about ourselves and our lives. You don’t have to wait for the new year to make that change. To quote my wife, “What are you gonna do about it?”