For many of us, January feels like catching our breath. It’s both a relief from busy holidays and motivation to begin with a blank canvas. But if we’re honest, it also comes with a sense of urgency to set resolutions for the new year – at home and work.
History of New Year Resolutions
After all, humanity has been setting new years resolutions for 4’000 years. The ritual of reflecting on the past year and making promises for the one ahead can be attributed to the ancient Babylions. But according to Merriam Webster, the actual phrase new years resolution first appeared in a Boston newspaper in 1813.
February: The Month of Abandoned Resolutions
But if January is the month of making resolutions, February is when those promises are deserted. Research shows that 80% of resolutions are abandoned by the second week of February, and only 8% of people follow through on the goals they set at the beginning of the year.
Abandoning resolutions may start even earlier. Strava, the world’s most popular running app, analyzed millions of data points and found that 19 January is when most people abandoned their resolution to exercise more.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac 2022, here are the resolutions from the 1947 Gallup Poll:
Improve my disposition, be more understanding, control my temper
Improve my character, live a better life
Stop smoking, smoke less
Save more money
Stop drinking, drink less
Be more religious, go to church more often
Be more efficient, do a better job
Take better care of my health
Take greater part in home life
Lose (or gain) weight
Playing an Unwinnable Game
If these statistics are accurate, we set ourselves up for failure each year. And businesses are quick to capitalize on our ritual. In December, we’re pressured to loosen our wallets – and belts and just indulge – it’s been a challenging year after all. Then as January rolls, store shelves are stocked with at-home gym equipment, plannes, and the latest superfoods, all designed to help jump-start resolutions.
It makes for an emotional rollercoaster of three months. December is filled with joy and indulgence, January with the feeling of “this year will be different,” and February with a sense of shame that, like last year, we haven’t kept our commitments.
Despite the guilt we feel when we break our resolutions, we continue to make them. It seems that we’re playing an unwinnable game, so why do we keep doing it and how can this year be different?
Avoid the Hype
Whether we realize it or not, there’s a lot of peer pressure to set resolutions. Seeing the hype before getting caught in its web is one way to avoid hopping on the hamster wheel. Be mindful of the cycle. And be conscious that you’re going to be targeted with ads designed to take advantage of your good intentions.
A Positive Perspective
Things may be sounding a bit bleak, but I promise there’s good news. Despite clever marketing, January doesn’t have a monopoly on goal-setting. We’re the captain of our ship and have an opportunity to start fresh whenever we want. This probably sounds a bit obvious, but it’s easy to forget with the pressure, hype, and habit of setting resolutions in January.
We’re in the Same Boat
So if you’re one of the millions of us who set goals and have already abandoned them, let go of the guilt. You’re not sailing alone. Many of us are in the same boat. You don’t have to raise a white flag of surrender.
In the next installment, we’ll explore more effective ways to set goals and examine the psychology behind how we can successfully achieve what we set out to accomplish.
Why some goals are so hard to achieve
Accountability and change
Fear of success and hidden barriers
Changing our behavior and adopting new habits is hard, so give yourself a dose of self-compassion and a conspiratorial wink to those around you.