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Are New Years Resolutions Relevant Anymore?

It’s 2017 now and most of us welcomed the new year with massive hangovers and even bigger resolutions. Usually these are goals we made in the past, yet insist on keeping. Who knows maybe this will be the year your coworker Tom stops being the office asshole and mind his business for once. Maybe this will be the year you go to the gym and stop eating all the free treats in the communal kitchen at work. Whatever your resolution is, why can only 8% of individuals can keep them? Are they even worth making since their inevitable failure is part of the ethos?

Freia Titland (NYC) says, “I think if we have a goal we should be able to start whenever. However, I also see the value in having a set date to ‘launch’ or jumpstart from. I think psychologically that can be very helpful.” Could setting a start date for your resolutions actually help your cause? It could, but most resolutions are simply desires to change habitual behaviors. So what exactly is a habit? According to Professor of Psychology Dr. Clayton R. Cook, a habit “refer[s] to behaviors that are provoked somewhat automatically in response to cues embedded in the environment.” If you’re making strides toward resolutions you should focus more on environmental cues rather than a start date. But for Yuon Flemming (Connecticut) the point of resolutions is moot. He writes, “Resolutions are silly. A new numerical year doesn’t mean current events change, stop, or reset.
They are another means by which people give themselves hope and delay bettering their lives in a meaningful way.”

Resolutions are a good way to change less than stellar habits. Marilyn Grant (Boston) suggests making goals that are “realistic and therefore achievable” by  downsizing and quantifying your goals so they have measurable success. I will eat one healthy meal a day and work out twice a week is a lot better than I want to lose weight. It’s easier to measure your progress with the first statement and it creates better habits like healthy eating and lessens the risk of disordered eating, which can occur if you want to lose weight quickly and don’t know where to start.

In addition to sizeable resolutions you also have to identify the triggers that cause you to renege on your goal. Once you’ve identified your trigger determine if you need positive reinforcement (adding a reward) or negative reinforcement (taking away something uncomfortable or painful) to ensure a change of habit. Once you determine whether positive or negative reinforcement is needed, make the same decision over and over again until it feels natural and habitual.

While most people find resolutions silly and hard to keep you can’t deny the fun and excitement that goes along with making them. If you’ve been dying to learn to play the piano for the 8th year in a row you just might if you do these three things:

  1. Make a small resolution so success can be quantified.
  2. Identify and rejig your triggers so you can keep your resolution.
  3. Keep making daily and weekly strides toward your resolution until they become second nature

Chloe Jeng of DC piped up about her own resolutions for the new year. “I’ve never done New Years resolutions before because I thought they were silly but this year I’m so horrified by living alone in the city with nobody to murder bugs for me that I’ve resolved to conquer my fear of roaches.” Not all resolutions are silly especially in Chloe’s case. Here’s to hoping she gets over her fear ASAP and has a wonderful new year!


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