The Problem with New Year’s Resolutions

New Years Resolutions. Those lifelong friends who haunt us forever, change annually, and find new ways to demoralize us each year.

I say it’s up to us to extinctify New Years Resolutions. Do away with them. Find a wastebasket and chuck them in. Seal it up and incinerate it. These Annual Resolutions are the single most manipulative and socially-disintegrating commercial constructions of the century. Yes, I said commercial constructions. Every time you pass that poster on the freeway, a voice speaks inside of you: “Make the New Year the beginning of a new you.” And we are programmed to think that way via the shrewd philosophy of marketers who know a bit too much about human psychology for their own good.

As with anything, money does seem to be driving this New Year’s Resolutions Fad, but I won’t be focusing on the monetary catalyst (perhaps for another post). Instead, I’ll be discussing the effect it has on us social creatures who grab onto marketing jargon, half-heartedly tighten our belts, and begin a Path to Success in new month of January.

“New Year, New You!” We’ve all heard this one-liner before. Unfortunately, America may have collectively fallen into it’s rhetorical trap, beginning to believe that the Earth’s cosmic positioning in relation to the sun is somehow related to our welfare, and the start of life-changing habits. But this simply isn’t true. It’s all a mind game.

You may say: “But a New Year is conceptually easier to digest, and begin the start of something new! It’s like beginning a new workout on the beginning of a new week, or a new month.” Yes, but New Year’s Resolutions are generally longer lasting dedications to improve either physically, morally, or both. If your primary motivation stems from the day of January 1st, then your primary motivation is nothing better than a wet candlestick.

We may all laugh at New Year’s Resolutions for these reasons, and yet we may still set New Year’s Resolutions. Why? Why does our culture continue to set New Year’s Resolutions when they are intuitively debasing?

We continue setting New Year’s Resolutions because we are so bad at keeping them. Think about it.

Bob is an economist who monitors the sales of baby toys in Manhattan. Say Bob set a New Year’s Resolution at the beginning of 2018 to be nicer to his friends and family. Since Bob is a snob with his money, and can only think about himself, however, he fails repeatedly at his 2018 New Year’s Resolution, and becomes increasingly disheartened. By the time December rolls around, he’s spent only a couple dollars on his family for presents, and feels as though he will die of moral starvation. Something in his life needs to change. But what is it? What should he do? And then Bob sees the posters, the TV ads, the large wallpaper inside the nice city malls, plastered upon all the monumental gyms. “New Year, New You,” the signs display, with images of muscular men and women, with yoga pants and newest phones, sporting those toned muscles, those surreal hairstyles, those magical athletic shoes. Marketers begin pushing Bob’s mind to connect the New Year with the potential for better image. Obviously, Bob associates “being nicer to friends and family” as the improvement, while others might associate it with better technology, larger muscles, healthier diets, etc., but that’s besides the point. So Bob is trained to think that he can make a new start in the New Year.

The problem is, all I’ve just described already happened in 2017. The year before. And it failed. These resolutions are annual cycles of hope, failure, discontentment and depression. And then hope, again.

Is there a solution? Not exactly. We can do away with New Year’s Resolutions, but we cannot do away with Resolutions. The difference is that our Resolutions should be founded on something far more foundational than the first day of our calendar’s rotation. If you want to change something about your life, don’t wait for the New Year. Do it now.

Who are we kidding? We know that January 1st doesn’t feel an ounce different than December 31st.

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