Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions for 2022? Have you managed to keep them for the past week? Because that’s almost exactly how old the New Year is. Yes? No? If you have already broken with your intentions, what went wrong?
Statistics have it that around 80 percent of all New Year’s resolutions will have failed by February. So, if you made any and failed, you are not alone. Maybe that’s consoling to you. Maybe not, depending on what kind of resolutions you made.
But why do such resolutions fail so often? One reason is that the resolution might be too vaguely formulated. If you want to do “more exercising”, it’s easy to slip out of that. It’s easier than to slip out of “walk 30 minutes every day” or “eat vegetables and/or salad with two meals every day”. Or you want too much too suddenly. “Stop eating candy” might be harder than “permit yourself one piece of chocolate in the afternoon”. Maybe it’s also the “permit” that makes it sound nicer than the “stop”. And maybe you don’t want to do it all at once but little by little, depending on what you have planned. If you want to declutter your home, don’t try and do it all at once. Go square foot by square foot, shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer.
What if you still fail? Try later. Don’t castigate yourself for it, unless it is really health-threatening. Then, you should get yourself support, of course. Or maybe, you should simply start at a different point in time.
I used to be a smoker in my twenties. Big time. Don’t ask me how many cigarettes went through my lungs as a student or later as a journalist. Having one smoldering in the ashtray, while being on the phone, was almost a given. A cigarette as a reward after having accomplished a big article, after a meal, when having a cup of coffee – it had become a habit. Until one December night I found myself with an empty package and the playful thought of “what if I just tried to stop”? The next thought was about when I usually “did it”. And finding the pattern in my habit, I decided, I’d drink a sip of water whenever I thought of smoking. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. It happened on December 27, 1997. That night, I smoked my last cigarette. The playfulness with which it started became something serious. It wasn’t even hard.
So, did I make any New Year’s resolutions for this year, you might want to know? Nope, not my thing. What I try to do better, I try during the year when it pops up at a moment that seems right. And I grasp it, you bet.
On another note, I think there are a lot of resolutions we can easily make and follow up. Such as always having reusable shopping bags in the car. Same as a reusable lidded mug for drinks-to-go. Forego straws. Forego as much packaging as possible. Think over whether you really need an item, whether you will ever use it and how often – and then maybe NOT buy it. Think over whether you have to run an errand or whether you can bundle a few into one trip, save gas, and thereby save the environment. Think over whether you can make something from leftovers instead of tossing them. Pay forward with friendliness and a smile (it pays back faster than you’d have thought). Refrain from answering to social media posts that annoy you – your anger will add oil to the fire but not change a thing for the better. Take ten minutes out per day – say at dinner – to think over all the good stuff that came along during your day, ponder why it made you feel good and how you can make it last.
New Year’s resolutions are all too often good intentions that become wishful thinking. Have you ever thought you’d like to climb Mt. Rainier but haven’t taken so much as a walk around your neighborhood in the past years? Big journeys start with a single step. Let’s start with what’s doable.