The Madness Of New Year’s Resolutions
Making New Year’s resolutions remains a popular sport this time of year. Estimates vary but these numbers from a US News and World Report article are typical:
Americans are largely making New Year’s resolutions to improve their personal finances in 2010. Slightly more people have resolved to save more money next year (63 percent), than the more traditional aims to exercise more (62 percent), eat better (60 percent), or to lose weight (46 percent), according to a recent telephone survey by TD Ameritrade and Opinion Research Corporation. The only resolution more popular than saving money was to relax and reduce stress (65 percent).
Also typical is the failure to keep resolutions, as noted in this excerpt from a piece published in the Telegraph:
But less than one in five of Britons kept up their resolutions beyond January 2009. And just six per cent kept our resolutions for the entire year.
You Say You Want A Resolution – Are You Sure About That?
Advice about making New Year’s resolutions abounds. A Google search for the terms, “how to” AND “New Year’s resolutions,” turns up over 2,400,000 hits,1 most of which seem to be rewrites of the same recommendations: set specific and realistic goals, commit oneself to these realistic goals by informing friends and family of ones intentions, implement a comprehensive plan that breaks down the ultimate goals into incremental steps, each with its own deadline, reward oneself for success, and forgive oneself for lapses and setbacks.
If one also considers the specific resolutions suggested (e.g., follow a healthy diet, exercise daily, save more, invest wisely, advance professionally, spend more time with family and friends, organize ones life, and cease smoking, drinking, abusing drugs, etc.), it becomes evident that New Year Resolutions are clearly under-appreciated — as a source of misery and psychological trauma.2 Inevitably, this syndrome will become formalized as an official psychiatric diagnosis (the smart money is behind “Post-Resolution Traumatic Disorder” with “Post-Resolution Traumatic Disorder, New Year Resolution Type” denoted as an especially virulent subcategory) with its own 12 step programs, victims self-help groups, and class action lawsuits.
DrHGuy, it may not surprise one to learn (especially if that one read the title to this post), has developed a strategy to deal with this problem.
Post-Resolution Traumatic Disorder Prevention
The optimal cure for Post-Resolution Traumatic Disorder is prevention – i.e., not making resolutions. Just Don’t Do It. Without a resolution, there is no risk of post-resolution trauma.
But, DrHGuy recognizes that, especially in the case of the New Year Disorder subtype, achieving this nirvana-like state is not a realistic goal for much of the populace.
Consequently, the majority of the afflicted will benefit from …
Resolution Redirection Management Protocol For Post-Resolution Traumatic Disorder, New Year Resolution Type
For those who are too habituated to the New Year Resolution custom to quit cold turkey, take a cue from those articles and columns of advice about making and keeping resolutions. Make long lists of especially ambitious commitments for the new year; just don’t make them for yourself. Take the burden off your friends and family by writing their New Year Resolutions for them.
Heck, while you’re at it, why limit your resolution-making to folks you know personally.? Think how pleased the President, the manager of the Cubs, that rude waitress at your local Applebee’s, the CEOs of the major oil companies, and all the others who would be enlightened by your efforts will be to receive your thoughtful list of resolutions for them.
You should, by the way, feel free (or even obligated) to develop resolutions that would have an especially beneficial impact on you (for example, you might provide your boss with a resolution to increase your wages and decrease your hours next year or present your spouse with his or her commitment to satisfy your sexual needs in more extensive and more exotic ways in each of the next 365 days).
Making New Year resolutions for yourself makes you miserable
Note: The original substance of this post was published Dec 30, 2006 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of AllanShowalter.com. It has undergone a few revisions since then, but the premise remains.
- To avoid the e-mail from statistically savvy search sorts, DrHGuy herewith stipulates that (1) the number of hits on a Google search is, at best, a quick and dirty indicator of comparative interest in a subject, (2) Google lists of this sort typically contain duplicates, and (3) the number of hits in Google searches for anything other than the accepted names of people, places, and concepts are heavily dependent on the precise search terms entered. In this case, searching Google for “how to” AND “New Year’s resolutions” produces a list of titles such as How To Stick To New Year’s Resolutions, How To Make An Actual New Year’s Resolution, How To Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions, How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions, How To Make A New Year’s Resolution, How To Stick To Your Resolution, How To Keep Up With Those New Year’s Resolutions, How To Make New Years Resolutions Last, and How To Make New Year’s Resolutions That You Can Keep. [↩]
- The only clear cut benefit from New Year’s Resolutions, in fact, is the upward blip in the economy resulting from the purchase of memberships in health clubs from resolution-motivated individuals who will use those exercise facilities an average of 1.3 times. [↩]