It’s very simple: if I wasn’t already motivated to do more/less of ABC or try harder at XYZ on December 31st, a brand new date—which I’ll inevitably write incorrectly for the first entire month of the year—isn’t going to help me. After all, it doesn’t help me the other 364 days of the year.
That isn’t to say I don’t make resolutions. Anyone who accomplishes anything must have some sort of resolution. You want to run a mile? You resolve to do it. Want to finish a book? Same deal. You pick a goal, you work toward it, and you reach it or you try again. It’s a simple formula, and one that works any time of year. That’s why December 31st is just not a meaningful deadline to me. If I sign up for a marathon, the date of the race is my deadline to get in shape. If I am part of a book club, the date of the next meeting is my deadline for finishing the book.
Beyond the issue of setting an arbitrary deadline, another problem with New Years Resolutions is that there are no real consequences for not keeping them—often because they are so vague from the start. If you intend to “eat healthier,” how is that measured? How will you know if you failed or succeeded? Likewise, if you don’t go to the gym three times a week—a decidedly more measurable resolution—who’s really going to know? What consequence will you face, aside from the unfortunate fact that you won’t get in any better shape?
Other life resolutions are very, very different. If you aren’t in shape by the time you step up to the marathon starting line, you’re going to seriously suffer for the next several hours of your life. (Or maybe you won’t even make it to the starting line, which means you’ll not only forfeit the money you spent to register, but you’ll also have to suffer pity from anyone you’ve told about the race. Which, let me tell you, is pretty excruciating.)
So here’s what I think: if you want to do something, get out there and do it. There are plenty of articles and videos out there to tell you how to set measurable, achievable goals, so you don’t need any advice from me. And if you like December 31st as a deadline, go for it. But before you begin, think long and hard about the resolution you’ve chosen and whether there are any tangible consequences for not achieving it. Otherwise, you might find yourself on “rinse and repeat” next year, and the year after, and the year after that. . . .