The New Year brings with it a lot of psychological connotations. Tabula Rasa. A clean slate. The chance to start over. It’s tempting to make grand pronouncements that “this year is different” and embark upon life-changing endeavors and hey, honestly, I think that’s cool. Life change is important to keep a person from fading away; if you’re not changing, you’re dying, as far as I’m concerned. Anytime a person decides to undertake something new it’s worthy of applause, whether it’s a huge weight loss plan, finally kicking that smoking habit, or writing every day (something that I myself am going to attempt – hey, you didn’t think I was immune to the whole New Years effect, did you?).
The truth is that 88% of all New Years Resolutions fail. That’s just the reality of the situation staring us in the face. Now, I write this post not to discourage people from making changes. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’d love to see everyone continue to examine their lives throughout the year – I just believe that New Years Resolutions contribute to burnout and keep people stagnant. It’s important to keep a grip on the changes that life are throwing at you as they come, not just on an arbitrary calendar date.
That said, let’s look at some of the reasons that New Years Resolutions might not be all that they’re cracked up to be.
5. January 1st is just another date. Seriously. We currently use the Gregorian Calendar, instituted by a papal bull from Pope Gregory XIII on February 24 1582. Previous to that, the most widely used calendar was the Julian calendar, which began with the month of Ianarius. This month lasted 29 days previous to 45 BC. There was also a 27-day month called Mercedonius during leap years. Even after the changes to the calendar following 45 BC, January 1, 2013 equates out to December 19, 2012, and that’s not even getting into the Hebrew, Islamic, or Persian Calendar. Psychologically sure it means something, but in universal terms the date means very little. Every day may as well be New Years, which means every day is just as good as the other for starting anew.
4. We don’t change simply because we resolve to. Psychology has proven this over and over again: a conscious desire to change is great, but it’s not enough. The idea that we can simply say “I’m never doing this again” and have it stay that way is part of the cultural zeitgeist that unconscious drives and desires simply don’t matter – and there’s no evidence that that is the case. I’m not saying that you can’t ever change. I’m living proof that that is simply not the case. What I’m saying is that trying to change something major without addressing the deeper underlying issues is like trying to replace your house’s roof when the walls are crumbling. It’s bound to collapse without the proper support structure to keep that change in place. You have to also focus on new ways of thinking and relating to the world, not just “not doing” something. Continue reading