Why I never make New Year’s resolutions

As I write this article, it’s the evening of January 7. I still haven’t made a New Year’s resolution. What’s wrong with me?

I’m being facetious, of course. But I’m doing it for a reason: to illustrate why I don’t like the whole concept of New Year’s resolutions.

You see, there’s this perception that the New Year is an ideal time to change something in our lives. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but it certainly backs us into a corner. Make your resolution a few days late, and you’ll feel like you’re slacking off.

Why weren’t you ready on January 1? Everyone else in your office was. Are you trying to cheat?!

Begin on January 8, and you’ll have the nagging feeling you haven’t accomplished anything–even if you stay faithful to your resolution until, say, April 18.

And if you do manage to begin on January 1, you’ll probably measure your success mostly in terms of the calendar. If you make it until January 27 before breaking your resolution, you’ll probably tell everyone, “Wow, I made it 27 days before I gave up.”

That brings to light my biggest problem with New Year’s resolutions: they’re too often seen as a contest to see how long you can “keep it up.” It’s like juggling. You may be pretty good at keeping those balls in the air, but at some point you’re going to drop one, and then everyone but your significant other will stop watching.

New Year’s resolutions don’t work

In my experience, far too many people get all pumped up to change their lives on January 1, hang in there for a few weeks, and then relapse. They finally skip a day at the gym, drink a soda, or say a cuss word.

At that point, they think they’ve ruined the whole venture. They think that if they’ve failed once, it’s all over. “Hey, maybe next year!”

I say that’s nonsense.

Look, if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, that’s great. But don’t keep it up simply so that you can tell everyone how long you’ve kept it up. Do it for you, and for the people you care about most. Do it to make your life better, and to improve the lives of those with whom you spend the most time.

Did you make a resolution to spend at least 30 minutes of quality time with your daughter every night before bed? But then you had to work really late on January 14, and you came home with a migraine, and you went straight to bed? Don’t beat yourself up. Just spend an hour with your little darling on January 15, and try to get back to normal on January 16.

Did you tell everyone you’d go to the gym before work every morning, but then on January 11 you hit the snooze button six times and it just didn’t happen? You’ve lost a battle, but you haven’t lost the war. Why were you so tired in the first place? Ah, you were up until 1:30 a.m. watching YouTube videos? Well, there’s your problem. Set a definite bedtime for work nights, and be firm about it.

This is the kind of change you’re really after, isn’t it? It’s not so much about the gym–it’s about adopting a healthy, balanced, disciplined lifestyle that ensures you’ll be at your best when it matters most.

Take a more realistic approach

When you look at resolutions through this lens, I think they become far less about some unrealistic idea of perfection, and far more about slowly, steadily living the life you want to live. The life you were put on this earth to live.

You can decide to start living that life any time–whether it’s January 1 or December 27.