Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

New Year’s resolutions: a positive start or doomed to fail?

The start of a new year always brings with it the expectation of at least one New Year’s resolution. Every January, most of us go into it as a fresh start, seeing it as an opportunity to work on ourselves and improve aspects of our lives. Whether that means going to the gym for the first time in a while, learning a new language or trying to become vegan – New Year’s resolutions are known for their unachievable and often doomed status. As we begin 2021, a year filled marked with hope for better days, two writers share their thoughts on New Year’s resolutions. 

Reece Goodall: a positive view on New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s Eve is a time for celebration and joy, but it’s also a time for resolutions. These plans for steps forward and for changing our lives are often forgotten as soon as they start, but I think they’re well worth doing and making a sincere effort to stick with. Here’s my argument in favour of resolutions, and how to actually make them more effective.

Why should we make New Year’s resolutions at all? They’re a positive goal for us going forwards and setting yourself a goal is a good way to get something done. If you set yourself a deadline or a target to hit, you’re more likely to succeed.

Often, they’re defined through us taking a long look at ourselves and our lives, and posing the big and powerful question of how can we change for the better? Anything that makes us enact positive change for ourselves and those around us is worth doing. The New Year is a hugely symbolic moment, with change in the air, so embrace some of that change for yourself.

Many resolutions struggle because they’re far too abstract to be worth anything

The major argument against resolutions is, of course, that we struggle to stick to them. According to YouGov research, nearly two-thirds of the people who make a resolution also break it, and that can make you feel down. I explored this issue in a past article, and I think the same advice holds – many resolutions struggle because they’re far too abstract to be worth anything.

Getting fit is a nice aim, but it’s a bold one. Instead, make a resolution like going for a ten-minute walk every day. Be realistic, and you’ll achieve it, and so the snowball effect begins. Most importantly, f you slip, try to get back on the horse and continue regardless – breaking a resolution once doesn’t mean you can’t get back into the habit.

I don’t see resolutions as the end of a journey. They’re better thought of as the start of one. Obviously, then, when I make this case, I’m suggesting that you put a bit of thought into what you want to do. New Year’s resolutions are only valuable if you truly reflect when making them. There’s little value in a last-minute gym sign-up you’re never going to use because you vaguely want to shift a few pounds.

I think a realistic and sensible New Year’s resolution is a positive thing

Go for a grand goal but write a series of mini resolutions for each month as steppingstones on the way. When I wanted to write my first book, my goal wasn’t to write a book, it was to write 500 words each time, which is realistic and more focused. Genuinely think about what you want to do and what you can do, and you’re considerably likelier to do it.

So, come New Year, and especially this year – a year in which vast amounts of time alone have got us all thinking about self-improvement, and helped us realise that our time is precious – I think a realistic and sensible New Year’s resolution is a positive thing. I urge you to think about something you want to accomplish and do it. You’ll be all the better for it.

Lucy Martin: why I won’t be making New Year’s resolutions this year

This year, I’ll be placing New Year’s resolutions with all of the other things I hope to leave behind in 2020. Rather than entering 2021 with a list of unattainable, stringent and frankly impractical resolutions, I’ll be focusing on the present and just trying to get by with each day that the pandemic throws at us.

In ordinary times, New Year’s resolutions can hold a lot of value. They can provide us with some structure ahead of a new year, as we often fall out of routines towards the end of the old one. They also encourage us to work on ourselves – something that I always believe to be a good idea.

It’s really not my job to encourage or discourage anyone when it comes to adopting resolutions for the new year. It all comes down to individual preference. If you thrive having goals and certain things you’d like to achieve by certain dates then New Year’s resolutions are pretty perfect for you. However, for those of you who, like me, can find setting goals and challenges quite overwhelming, particularly when so much of our lives right now is unpredictable, then perhaps you might want to give the resolutions a miss.

I would probably focus on resolutions related to personal growth and making yourself happy

Ultimately, I do think the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail. Just last year, I wrote a piece which summarised that basically the pressure of the labels we apply to New Year’s resolutions, combined with their often generic nature, means that over 80% of them fail by February.

If you do decide that you want to set a few goals for yourself as we enter the new year, I would encourage you to make them specific, attainable and also to make them meaningful. If you ask me, we’ve all been through enough over the past year so any resolutions related to going to the gym more or putting yourself on a strict diet that you know will probably make you miserable would be the ones to avoid. Instead, I would probably focus on resolutions related to personal growth and making yourself happy.

Prepare yourself for the better days that I’m sure are to come

Give yourself a break and remember that you are enough just as you are. The start of a new year brings opportunities to work on you and your happiness and if you’re taking anything into 2021, go easy on yourself.

So, as we approach the final days of 2020 – probably one of the most chaotic, catastrophic and devastating years in many of our lives – I encourage you to think about the things you hope to gain out of next year. Focus on what makes you happy and how to do more of that, and if you’d like to set yourself a few resolutions as a challenge for the new year, make them attainable. Most of all, say goodbye to the year that has gone and prepare yourself for the better days that I’m sure are to come.

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