New Year’s Resolution Resolve

I think New Year’s Resolutions are dumb.  There, shortest blog post ever.

I rarely make a New Year’s Resolution. Everyone knows they don’t work, right?

I used to have a gym membership and back then I always hated January. Every year my free reign over my choice of equipment was so rudely busted up by hoards of newly outfitted yahoos making their annual month long resolution to get in better shape. This time for real.

Well, at least that was my excuse for not going anyway.  However, I do need something to write about, so with my feelings about New Year’s resolutions out of the way, let’s continue on.

When I Googled “New Year’s Resolution Success Rate”, this was the top search result:

Although I respect the Huffington Post as a reputable media outlet (I honestly don’t know if I’m being sarcastic right now or not), I decided to dig a little deeper into that statistic.  And, by dig a little deeper, I mean I Googled this:

Okay, now Forbes, that’s credible.  And, they claim to back up their research with a study from the University of Scranton.  What ever happened to citing references? Remember footnotes? Did that go away with cursive writing? It appears to come from a study published in 1998 in the Journal of Substance Abuse, where lead researcher, John Norcross enrolled 200 participants who made New Year’s Resolutions and followed their resolve or lack thereof for a few years. But, according to the abstract I found online, 19% were successful after 2 years.  I wonder where the authors got that 8% figure from. This may require a trip to the library.  Maybe I’ll start with an email to the authors of those articles. There’s maybe an 8% chance I’ll do anything at all.

I also found some more articles on the internet about Norcross and his work.  In an article for the American Psychological Association (APA), the author points out that although 60% of   those who made resolutions failed in the first 6 months of the year in Norcross’s study, people who made resolutions were still 10 times more likely to change their behavior than those who do not make a New Year’s pledge.

According to Norcross, lose weight, quit smoking, and exercise more are the three most common resolutions in America.  You can’t argue that those are three good ideas.  Well, I can, but that’s because I sell medical products to treat the devastating effects from diseases which are mitigated by any of those healthy lifestyle changes.

And, in the same APA article, the author points out the following from Dr. Alan Marlatt, who studied people who tried to stop smoking:

“In their attempts to quit smoking, most people smoke a cigarette or two along the way,” says Marlatt. However, how new nonsmokers handle a lapse can make a huge difference in long-term success. Unsuccessful quitters, he says, tend to fall into the trap of dichotomous thinking, viewing a single smoked cigarette as evidence that they just do not have the willpower to persevere. A successful quitter, on the other hand, might search for situational causes leading to the momentary failure, such as the presence of a smoking friend, and avoid the risky situation in the future.”

I can certainly relate to that.  Although I was never a big smoker, I did chew tobacco for many years when I was young.  I do remember it being fairly hard to quit, and I know I didn’t do it on the first try. So maybe not being perfect with that resolution isn’t necessarily a failure.

After all, how would know how hard that resolution is going to be to keep until you try?  Like many things in life, you’ll never know until you try, and fail. And, failing is going to teach you what you need help with, just like Marlatt’s smoker who learned that hanging with his loser smoker friend wasn’t such a great idea. I bet his mom never liked that friend either.

And oh by the way, didn’t I set a goal last year to blog once a week?  That was a goal, though.  I think the actual resolution was to write every day. And I think I made that resolution two years ago. Actually what does it matter since I didn’t do that either? But, I do write a lot more than I did the year before.  So, there’s that.

Perhaps I’m looking at resolutions unfairly. After all, every achievement begins with a first step. And, while starting something is no guarantee you’re going to finish, it certainly is guaranteed that you’ll never finish anything you never start. I’ll have to give this some more thought.

Are you making a New Year’s Resolution this year? I haven’t made one yet. Maybe I should. Possibly a resolution not to believe everything I read on the internet.

Leave a Reply