I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. This choice comes from the hard-won experience that I’ve never been able to keep one, whether made drunkenly on New Year’s Eve or soberly on any other day of the year. Chances are, you won’t either. A well-regarded study showed that by February 1, only 55 percent of resolutioners were sticking to their guns. Two years out, only 19 percent had reached their goals.
It should be no surprise, then, to learn that gyms make all their money in January, when as much as 90 percent of new memberships are sold. I happen to know this, having once worked for a fitness operation, which fortunately did not require that I be either fit or even inclined toward exercise. (One day my boss walked into the company gym and found me on the treadmill. “What’s the matter?” he said. “Did you get lost?”) Meanwhile, gym owners know full well that it doesn’t matter if they sell five times the number of memberships their facility can handle, since the surge of new attendees — all dressed in the latest fitness apparel — will dwindle to a manageable number in as little as 30 days.
Psychologists say the problem with resolutions is that most folks shoot directly for the end result (I want to lose 30 pounds by March) rather than thinking through their plan for reaching that goal, whether it be losing weight, quitting smoking, or becoming a professional sword swallower. It’s the little steps along the way that will get you there, say the experts.
What you need to do is get out a pencil and paper and draft those baby steps. Week 1, week 2, etc., up to at least week 12. Of course, if you’re like me, the thought of all that planning will make you want to take a nap. Writing stuff down? Please! However, psychologists say that without some detailed planning, you might as well click your heels together three times to get what you want. Sure, “There’s no place like home” got Dorothy back to Kansas, but that kind of approach is a risky bet for the rest of us.
Actually not making New Year’s resolutions can be a hugely liberating experience. Consider this advice from self-help guru Dr. Phil: “A year from now, you’re gonna weigh more or less than what you do right now.”
Think about that for a minute. Let it sink in. Now relax! You don’t have to do anything to make yourself a better person in 2022. Isn’t that a relief!
Happy New Year!
This article is featured in the January/February 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
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