A New Years Resolution to Never Have a New Years Resolution

New Year's Resolution

Every year on January 1st, I listen to “New Year’s Day” by U2. The line, “all is quiet, on New Year’s Day” always feels real to me. Something about the holiday has a kind of calm, silent, and weird feeling to it. The madness of the holidays is over (thank god), it still gets dark in the afternoon, and no one can believe another year has passed.

And for many people, it’s Day One of a New Year’s resolution.

Setting a resolution is easy. Executing it is hard. Prior to January 1st, many people get excited about all the positive, big changes they plan to make in the new year, but then find themselves hard-pressed to make the change when the time comes. 

According to an October 2023 survey from Forbes Health/OnePoll of 1,000 U.S. adults, the most popular New Year’s resolutions include fitness, weight loss, dieting, quitting smoking, meditation, learning a new skill, and travel. Of all the resolutions on the list, “drink less” is the least popular. That made me giggle, because quitting drinking was something I imagined I would somehow magically commit to for my annual attempts at a New Year’s resolution. 

I used the guise of a resolution to psych myself into thinking I would address my drinking problem when I really had no intentions of doing anything about it all. Setting a resolution gave me a false sense of control over my alcoholism. But it also gave me permission to go on a bender through December since I had an imaginary quit date on the horizon.

According to the Forbes survey, 37% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution with the average commitment only lasting at most three months. The stats are so weak, that some people celebrate “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day” on January 17th and “Quitter’s Day” on the second Friday of the month. 

But for me, by the time January 1st came around and I had already said fuck it before even getting out of bed. Other than being completely unprepared to give up my addiction to alcohol, I was certainly not going to NOT drink on a day off from work. And even though New Year’s Day is often a boring, recovery kinda day — it’s still a holiday. And any holiday was reason enough for me to drink. 

The same paradox I faced is often what most people encounter when it comes to actually following through with a New Year’s resolution. What I wanted to do was too big and frankly, I was simply not ready to face it. Considering I always aimed to quit drinking meant it was the big change I really wanted — I was just too scared to actually do it. 

Clearly, putting a future quit date on the calendar was not the motivation I needed to finally stop drinking. In fact, I spontaneously made up my mind to stop on a random Thursday in December. People can quit a habit or start a new one at any time, which makes New Year’s resolutions pretty arbitrary; however, they still exist.

Just because the vast majority of people fail doesn’t mean everyone does — 6% of the poll respondents stuck with their resolutions long term, lending hope to us who fail that it can be done. However, 6% is a pretty dismal statistic. 

Behavioral changes are difficult and uncomfortable, which is why so many people would rather put it off till later than do anything about it now. My mother always said, “Don’t put off till tomorrow what can be done today.” It goes without saying that if a person really wants to change something about themselves, they can start working on it whenever they want.

Being excited about change is often not enough to elicit a big change and because resolutions are optional, we can easily give up on them. They’ve never worked for me and any sweeping changes I’ve made in my life were never the result of a New Year’s resolution. 

Therefore, it’s my resolution this year to never have another New Year’s resolution, because for me and the other 94% of the population, they just don’t work.


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