10 January 2022

Resolving Anew to Make No New Year's Resolutions


I start every new year with one form or another of this manifesto. I have plenty of precedent.

"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." For many years, I've been running around attributing this to Proverbs in the Old Testament, but oops! it's from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:34.

"One day at a time." Alcoholics Anonymous. They also say, "It works!"

"Nothing is set in stone." That one is a proverb.

In 2019, according to statistics on discoverhealthyhabits.com, 48% of those who made resolutions wanted to lose weight. 59% wanted to exercise more and 54% wanted to eat healthier, and I bet those were looking sideways in the mirror too. In 2020, the last two made the most popular list. My take on that is that resolution-makers are getting more ingenious in wanting magic when they look at the scale. In general baby boomers and midwesterners care the most about losing weight. What percentage of these January hopefuls have kept their resolutions by the end of the year? The stats range between 2% and 12%. According to cnbc.com, "Diet and weight loss have grown to be a $71 billion industry, yet according to studies— 95% of diets fail."

Let's rephrase that, because I'm dying to use QED in a sentence. 95% of diets fail; diet and weight loss are a $71 billion dollar industry; QED. And resolving to lose weight every January, with the end result of losing and gaining and losing and gaining hundreds or even thousands of pounds over a lifetime that represents the triumph of unrealistic expectations—or superstition—or self-hate, if I may put my shrink hat on for a moment, is an unhealthy, even dangerous waste of time.

But let's put weight and dieting aside. The stats I mentioned say that Gen Z, today's kids, make resolutions about finding love, dressing better, and improving their style. Millennials resolve to get a raise or a promotion. Oh, you poor kids! America has taught you that life is nothing but a series of goals, and everything in between is panting, sweating, and striving. Reading between the lines, I notice that the competition and winning that are implicit in a goal-oriented society have gone underground. Today's corporate-speak is all about "teams." But it's meaningless. If you writers and appreciators of words are close to anyone who works in such an environment, you'll know what I mean.

Notice too, what a bill of goods the new crop of kids have been sold about what matters. Lumping love in with dress and style, whatever that means? And making resolutions about it? I'd be better pleased with them if they resolved to hook up less and pay less attention to how they look, more to how they feel and how much they care about others.

But to get back to my starting point, it's not really the nature of the resolutions that puts me off them. It's the fact that I have achieved so much peace of mind from dealing with my life one day—and sometimes shorter increments, if that was all I could handle—at a time. It's amazing how easy it is not to feel overwhelmed when I'm not fretting about what I'm supposed to achieve next month, next week, or even tomorrow. If it's not today's problem, I'm free to turn my attention to what I need to accomplish—and enjoy—today. And that's enough. It works. It really does.

By the way, my posting date came around a week later than I thought it would when I originally wrote this piece. How many of you made New Year's resolutions on January 1 this year—and have already broken them?

4 comments:

  1. Good post, Liz. Pre-Covid, one of the standing jokes at my health club was how many new people showed up for the first two or three weeks in January, apparently to lose weight and get back in shape. Most of them disappeared by the end of the month.

    I stopped making resolutions a few years ago because so much has happened physically. Now I just try to stay active both mentally and physically and demand less of my writing. It's not going to change the world or make me perfect, but as long as I still enjoy doing it, I'll keep on. Ditto with the music.

    Things still go wrong occasionally, but I let them bother me less than I used to. Maybe that's one definition of growing up, but I'd certainly be the last person to ask about that. Happy new year.

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  2. Happy New Year to you, Steve, and as an experienced shrink, I have no hesitation in saying you bet it's a sign of emotional maturity to accept that things will always go wrong sometimes and deal with them without freaking out when they do. Good for you!

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  3. Great post. I quit making New Year's resolutions years ago, and I think that's the way it should be. Life is too full of surprises, changes, etc. to try to stick to something that you don't really want to do anyway (if you really wanted to do it, you would have without a "resolution").

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