"There's no point in spending your life in the pursuit of something that's easy." - Alice Kuipers

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Death of the New Year's Resolution

I read in a newspaper once that as few as two percent of those making new year's resolutions are able to meet their goals by the end of the year. In fact, I'd say the same figure probably matches those that make it past the first two weeks. What is it about new year's resolutions that make them so hard to keep?
Just two days ago I almost broke my new year's resolution to write at least 1500 words every day. I hadn't written a thing all day and it was late in the evening. I was exhausted. I got ready for bed, fully resigned to the idea that I would fail to write. I climbed into my big, soft bed, so warm and inviting. It called to me, offered me the utter bliss of sleep and I came to close to turning the light off and accepting. But I didn't. At the last moment, as I was reaching for the light switch, I realized what I was doing. I was failing. Already. Only six days into the new year and I was already giving up. I couldn't allow it. The light stayed on (much to my husband's dismay) and I wrote for the next hour or so, until I'd done my allotted words.
It could have been so easy - it is so easy - to just quit. All I had to do was just cut myself a break. After all, a girl needs sleep right? I did have to work the next day, so having a decent amount of shut eye was important. But as I went to switch off the light, to break my resolution, I felt ashamed. I was only six days in! How could I possibly give myself a break after just six days?! And so, I couldn't give in. But had it not been for that flicker of shame, I would be mumbling my excuses to you now. Which got me to thinking, why is it so hard to actually follow through on our resolutions?
Let's look at the setting. It's so grandiose isn't it? Only hours (or minutes) before midnight, we write down our list. The list of everything that will be different this year, everything we're going to do better. As the seconds tick down, we wait for that transforming moment, when we shed our old, ragged year for a brilliant new one. When we become new. I always believe that somehow I'll feel different. That I'll feel stronger, more powerful, that suddenly I'll be wiser and I'll see clearly what I need to do. But that's not how it works. I won't be any different in the new year. How will I have become a completely new person in just a few hours? How does switching out the old calendar for a new one make me any different? It doesn't.
I think the whole point of the resolution is not for a dramatic change in a single moment. The stroke of midnight won't turn me into a brilliant writer, capable of producing fantastic tales with the flick of a wrist. But working to keep my resolutions might. Keeping our resolutions is what creates the change. Slowly, day by day we evolve, our resolutions become habits. We don't even realize it's happening until we've looked back months from now and realize how far we've come.
But how do we get there? My experience on Friday was very enlightening as to how easy it is to quit. All it takes is one day when you're tired, when you're stressed, when you just feel like taking a break. Just for one day. And BAM, it's next new year's eve and you're writing the same resolutions down all over again. I think the most important thing is to make it through the first two months. It's easiest to quit in the beginning, but once things become habit it takes a lot more conscious thought to quit. If we can make it through that first bit, the trial period, then I think it's safe to say our chances of success are far better. So what do you say? Shall we hold each other to it? This blog functions as a great way for me to stay true. Just the thought of having to admit failure was enough to keep me on the straight and narrow for now so benefit from my own bout of near quitting and hold yourself accountable. And if you've already quit, try again! You don't have to wait for next year to get back on the horse. There's no law against making goals the rest of the year.
New year's resolutions may (more often than not) be doomed to fail, but if I must go down, I'm going down swinging. Are you?

1 comment:

  1. I love it!! You're right it is so easy to quit! But when you make it through that first almost quit I think it's a lot easier to keep going... Kind of like hitting the wall in running! After you break through suddenly you feel invincible!! Keep up the good work! I love hearing about your progress!!