New Year Resolutions are Ineffective. Find Yourself a Better Alternative.

Opinions on Debatable Issues #16

New Year’s Resolution creates a wrong mindset that sets people up for failure. The New Year signals a new start, just like the mindset we associate with Monday. We always tell ourselves, I will start to eat healthy on Monday, I will start working out on Monday, I will not procrastinate starting this Monday, etc. However, this is dangerous because, according to Jaime Mass’s interview with Women’s Health, the “Monday principle” indicates an all-or nothing-mentality” which causes a bad performance overall.

Why We Make New Year's Resolutions | Mental Floss
Mental Floss

First, the thinking that I can start fresh next year makes people indulge and let themselves go at the current moment, setting up bad habits that make accomplishing their New year’s Resolution extremely difficult. For instance, a person whose resolution is to work out every day in 2021 usually wants to take advantage of the rest of 2020 left to sleep, rest, and crawl on the couch because he would not be able to do that once 2021 comes. Then when 2021 comes, start to move one’s body in the gym becomes so difficult and painful. It often leads to people giving up. 

The "All or Nothing" Mentality, That Kills Long-Term Progress. | Tailored  Coaching Method
Tailored Coaching Method

Second, this mindset of starting fresh and everything will go as planned is too black and white, or we call it the “all or nothing” mentality. As humans, we are not perfect and we often fell off the wagon more than we think we will. With the all or nothing mentality, people usually feel completely discouraged and failed when they screw up once. They would completely give up on their resolution, thinking “I have failed once and I cannot succeed, so I’d rather let go and indulge.” In fact, in 2019, a survey found only 7% of survey participants stuck to all their resolutions 2019. 

Another defect of New Year’s Resolution is that it is not sustainable, just as most goals. it doesn’t necessarily take a screw-up to throw us completely off of our goal. A long time of effort with little progress also erodes our energy and determination. Seeing that hard work are not paying off and expectations are unmet is frustrating that most people cannot persist on achieving their goal. According to U.S. News, 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the second week in February. This data makes it unquestionable that New Year’s resolution is not effective. 

Coming to fruition, or not? – El Cid
El Cid

It is very often that people to set impossible goals. To achieve those grandiose resolutions, people form an “a hyperfocus on goal achievement”, which can cause problems such as unhealthy habits (working long hours, skipping meals, losing sleep), not developing close friendships, and melting down when your extraordinary efforts fail”, according to Seapoint Center. In contrast, setting small steps solves this problem by making every effort palpable and outcome reachable. Instead of making a goal, we should try to replace a bad habit with a new habit. 

Another drawback that makes New Year’s resolution short-lived is its inflexibility. People’s needs, views, and expectations change and evolve constantly. A determined New Year’s Resolution usually gets outdated and subsequently got given up. Planning small steps do not have such problems since people can easily adjust their next step to their circumstances. You might argue that the goal of getting wealthy will never be old. That’s right, but this resolution faces the problem of being too vague, which also contributes to failure in achieving it. In one 2014 study, 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions said they had unrealistic goals. The same study found that 33% of participants who failed didn’t keep track of their progress. Vagueness and unrealisticness are the fatal spots of New Year Resolutions.

Top 7 Reasons Why most of us Fail to meet our Goals - MindsEye Consultants
MindsEye Consultants

What makes people continue to perform well and stay on track is not a goal-driven by motivation because motivation fades easily and any kind of obstacle and hardships can diminish one’s motivation. The best way to live a productive, fruitful, and healthy life is to see good actions as daily habits. Instead of thinking I want to become something or someone, think that I am someone and start living the kind of life that a healthy, productive me would live. For something to work, it is better to start at the moment and change the narrative of I am trying to resolve I am a person who accomplishes this and starts live that life immediately. 

How to Create an Effective Action Plan (with Pictures) - wikiHow

Taking quitting smoking as an example, instead of saying “I want to quit cigarette for my health in 2021”, we should make a system that makes this change sustainable, as James Clear recommends in his book “Atomic Habits”. That includes, first, changing the narrative from the goal-driven mindset of “I am trying to quit cigarette” to the identity-driven statement of “I am not a smoker”. The second part of the system is replacing smoking habits with a healthier ones. For instance, if you smoke every time you feel frustrated, set the small plan of going on a walk to release stress instead of turning to cigarettes. Creating a system that ties healthier options to part of our daily behaviors makes it sustainable, not resolutions.

Book Summary - Atomic Habits: Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones


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