Mind & Body

Insights on New Year’s Resolutions From Everyday People

TIMEDecember 29, 2021

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions again! What big plans do you have for 2022? If you’re like me, those resolutions that are so important on Jan. 1 are barely hanging on by Feb. 1. How can we keep them? I want this to be my year, too. So I randomly interviewed several people I know to help me with this.  

Paul had an interesting thought: “The key is that you have to make up your mind and do it. If you want to get rid of a bad habit, such as smoking or over-eating, you must make a firm commitment to do so. It’s coming out of an addiction, not unlike defeating alcoholism. Knowing what motivates you is very important, like why do you want to do this thing? Determination is needed whether you are going to start some good thing or stop some bad thing.”

Robin was next. When I asked her what her plan was for keeping her New Year’s resolutions, she simply said: “I don’t make any. That way, I won’t be disappointed when I don’t keep them.”

In contrast to Paul’s proactive advice, Robin’s was non-active. I suppose both approaches could work.

Barbara, an 81-year-old “church lady,” told me this: “It depends on the motive of your resolutions. You have to act in faith and give them to God. Make sure you believe in something positive like better health or closer relationships and reject negative things like fear and doubt. You must determine your motivation for what you wish to accomplish.”

I noticed that the word “motivation” was mentioned again.

Ginger had this wise piece of advice: “Be sure you do not make the resolution so big that it is difficult to maintain. It should be something that you can stick with all year: a permanent change for the better.”

Penny thinks ahead. She plans to cut way down on sweets, especially chocolate, which she loves. She knows herself well and admits that these things have been her weakness. Here is her plan:

“If I deny myself and say I won’t eat any chocolate, I will be obsessed with wanting it. When I do cheat, it will cause a chocolate binge. So, if I have only a little bite of it, my craving will be satisfied, and I will want less and less. In other words, I can’t say I will never have chocolate. I will only have a bite here and there when the craving hits. Also, I have a great support group with my friends and family who are watching me. Being accountable is probably the best thing that helps me stick with my resolutions.”

I was surprised at how many people said they don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

“Only 10 percent of people make them, probably because they don’t want to be defeated when they don’t keep them,” Dan, whom I heard on Air1 Radio, reported. “Did you know that 47 percent of the people who make them have failed by Feb. 1?”

What’s the main reason people give for failing to keep their New Year’s resolutions?

According to the website Finder.com: “Of men and women and all generations, the main reason we’re not able to see 2021 resolutions to success is because we ‘don’t have the willpower.’ Others blame it on forgetting, being too lazy, or some other reason. The most common reason for ‘other’ was COVID with 22 percent of respondents writing it in.”

Thus far, we see a few themes running through these interviews and experts. To help us keep our New Year’s resolutions, we need to be determined, motivated, committed, realistic, prepared, and accountable.

Continuing my interviews, Sarah had an idea that might work.

“I think we should not call them ‘New Year’s resolutions’ because that locks us into a whole year,” she said. “It is a source of stress that we do not need. Let’s call them, ‘January Objectives’ or make an untitled list of things we would like to change. That would give our plans flexibility, as we need to adapt them.”

Larry’s comments were straightforward and logical.

“You have to have a plan,” he said. “Write them down and keep them in the forefront of your mind. Every morning, I list things I need to do that day. I think New Year’s resolutions are too confining. I prefer to live one day at a time.”

Cecelia, another one who doesn’t make resolutions for the New Year, said: “When I had kids at home, I would make plans for them, although I did not necessarily consider them New Year’s resolutions. I would plan to exercise more or lose weight, but those were vague goals that never worked.”

John simply said of New Year’s resolutions, “Don’t make, can’t keep.”

The people in this last group are non-resolution people who get around the idea of New Year’s resolutions this way:

They don’t call them “New Year’s resolutions,” thus locking them in for a year.

They choose to live one day at a time.

They have a plan for any changes they wish to make.

They write down their plan and refer to it often.

They don’t make vague, non-measurable goals.

Whether you call it “New Year’s resolutions” or something else, plan to better yourself somehow on an ongoing basis, not just on Jan. 1. Don’t beat yourself up when you mess up. Instead, start over and commit to only a day or two. That’s easy to do, and it will get you back on track and help you stick to your plans. Remember, it’s a commitment that requires motivation and determination. Remind yourself why you’re doing this and reward yourself for your excellent work.

Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.