12 January 2013
New Year's Resolutions: Why I Don't Make Them
by Elizabeth Zelvin
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. No matter how many times I say it, a lot of people still don’t believe it. I keep saying it, thinking that this time they’ll get it. And they keep asking: “Really! You really don’t make New Year’s resolutions? How can you not make New Year’s resolutions? But you must make New Year’s resolutions!” They think that if they ask again, maybe this time my answer will change. And that’s the resolution process in a nutshell.
It’s not as if the millions of people who faithfully list the elements of the fresh start they’re going to make come January 1 are actually going to keep these resolutions. Year after year’s experience belies their ability to maintain the changes they’ve resolved to make. Do you consider it odd and irrelevant that I'm still talking about New Year's resolutions on January 12? I rest my case.
To resolve these chronic contradictions, people diet. On New Year’s Day, they declare, “This year, I’m going to stay away from junk food. I’m going to eat fewer desserts and more vegetables.” The erosion may set in as early as the neighbors’ New Year’s brunch, at which the pastries look sooo delicious…. If not, a bare six weeks or so away is Valentine’s Day, which can’t be celebrated without chocolate…. If we really expected to make permanent changes in our eating habits, why would we launch them as part of a ritual that we celebrate every single year?
But the fact that resolutions tend not to work in any lasting way is not the only reason I avoid them. As a shrink and as a person old enough to have amassed some life experience, I’ve come to believe that planning for a year is neither an effective nor an emotionally healthy way to live my life. You know the common expression about seeing no light at the end of the tunnel?
And this morning, I did it again.
Note: I posted just about all of the above last New Year’s, but SleuthSayers was just getting started then, and I’m counting on most of this year’s readers not to have seen it before—and the rest to be old enough that they’ve forgotten it in the interim. My opinion about resolutions has not changed at all in the past year.
Posted by Elizabeth Zelvin at 00:01