by Pete Mazzaccaro
As many of us pack up their holiday decorations and carry the many boxes and oversized plastic bins back to their attics and basements for the year, it’s time to consider the New Years Resolution.
A week into the new year, some of you who made resolutions might already have well formed opinions about what your chances are of sticking with the resolution or letting it fritter away by mid March.
I toy with the idea of a resolution every year, but decline. It’s not because I don’t need to improve. The list of things I should be doing is pretty long, but I continue what I think is the best practice of never making a promise I don’t think I can keep.
Why, I wonder, do nearly half of Americans continue to give those resolutions a shot to begin with?
New years resolutions have a long history. Promises were apparently made by ancient Babylonians and Romans made resolutions to Janus at the beginning of every year.
There aren’t any studies from those periods to see how our civilized antecedents managed to keep those promises. Likely the stakes were higher (Easier to call up Bob and tell him you won’t be joining him at the gym than avoiding Janus), but I bet the success rates then were only a little better than they are now.
Today, many of us continue to make resolutions for a lot of common things. Self improvement is a big one, with people promising themselves they’ll lose weight or exercise more often. Others promise to do other things to generally improve their well being – spend more time with friends and family, eat better or spend less time working.
According to a recent study by the University of Scranton, 45 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution. Only 24 percent, however, succeeded in keeping their promises. The younger you are, the more likely you are to keep that resolution – 39 percent of people in their 20s stick to their plan.
So if you’re in your 30s or more, and you like to play the numbers, a New Year’s resolution is not a very good bet.
There are ways to try to make the odds a little better, and that comes with trying to figure out a resolution you’re more likely to keep. Make a resolution to do something that’s simple and something you enjoy (don’t decide you’re going to row the Schuylkill more if you’ve never been in a canoe).
One pretty compelling thing I read recently on the subject was a ridiculously easy system Jerry Seinfeld came up with so he wouldn’t procrastinate – print out a big calendar, decide what you want to do and how long you want do do it for, do it every day and put a big fat X on that day on the calendar. Whenever his “chain of Xs” broke, he knew he had let himself down. I like that system because it’s easy and doesn’t require an app. All you need is a calendar and a Sharpie.
Despite the system, I don’t yet have a resolution I’m willing to track. Not yet, anyway. I have some ideas, but nothing solid. Change is going to have to wait a little while longer, I guess.
If you’re looking to buck the trend and follow through, good luck to you. May you be one of the lucky 24 percent who succeed.