Some (not so) good advice for New Year’s resolutions

by John Derr
Posted 12/28/23

Almost four of every 10 of us will make New Year’s resolutions. By Jan. 2, 75% of those four will abandon their temporary insanity.

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Some (not so) good advice for New Year’s resolutions


In just a few days, almost four out of every 10 of us will make New Year’s resolutions. Somewhere around the first quarter mile of their Jan. 2, 2024, early morning run, 75% of those four will abandon their temporary insanity in favor of Grandpa’s Country Fried Breakfast at Cracker Barrel.  

New Year’s resolutions are rarely maintained throughout the year.

At the beginning of 2023, I resolved that I would support every claim I make with supporting data. That lasted about two weeks, until it became frustratingly clear that much of what I assert cannot be substantiated with documented facts, science, or even Wikipedia. 

For this article, though, I did consult the internet. According to the market research company Drive Research, only 9% of resolution makers maintain their new behavior throughout the entire 12 months. Eighty percent forget about their resolutions by February.

You know this to be true if you are a regular attendee at a gym.  In early January, your regular treadmill is occupied at your usual time by an eager beaver in brand new, color coordinated Under Armour apparel. Sometimes you know it’s new because the colors are still vibrant and there are no stubborn sweat stains under the arms. Other times you know because the tags were left on. Then there’s the guy sitting the wrong way on the leg curl machine who is still trying to replicate the little instructional signage on the equipment. 

By mid-January, that guy’s MRI has come back positive for a detached patella ligament, and the fashionista who took your treadmill has moved first to the stationary bike, and then to the recumbent bike. By the end of the month, she will be telling friends she walks the dog twice a day for exercise – and she doesn’t have a dog. 

I think part of the problem in remaining committed to this annual self-improvement ritual is our choice of resolutions. I would say that is 75% of the problem. Or maybe it’s 40% of the problem. I really don’t know. But it stands to reason. According to Forbes, the most popular New Year’s resolution for 2024 is improving fitness. That is followed by improving finances. Third on the list is improving mental health.

Each of those is an ambitious objective. Each requires dedication. Each requires patience. And results are not immediate. You don’t haul your “dad bod” to the gym for a week and the next week get mistaken on the street for Jason Momoa. Your credit score doesn’t go from the numerical equivalent of pi one day to the number of calories in a slice of pie the next. And, you can’t fix crazy in a fortnight. 

According to science, it is better to set smaller, more specific goals. Remember  the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer is “One bite at a time.” 

We should keep that in mind when making our resolutions . . . unless, of course, your goal is to go on a diet. In that case, you should not be eating elephants at all, and should perhaps opt for a salad. You can still refer to the same old question as above, but substitute “large salad” for “elephant.” This analogy does not extend to M&Ms. 

You should share your resolution with a friend so they can hold you accountable. Remember to keep your objectives small and vague. It’s all right to say, “I’m going to get in shape in 2024.” Just be sure not to specify which shape. A circle is a shape. See what I mean?  

If your finances are your focus in 2024, announce you want to increase your financial sense. You don’t need to tell anyone you are spelling it c-e-n-t-s.  

And if your aim is to improve your mental health, tell your imaginary friends, just don’t let them try to talk you out of it. 

I plan to be one of the 40% of Americans who will make a resolution in 2024. I want to finish my second book this year. The first book I read was pretty good. Hopefully, the next one in the Encyclopedia Brown series will be equally compelling.