New Year’s Resolutions: Six Months Later, Can We Keep Them?

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What is that sound following the clinking of champagne glasses at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day? Oh, of course – it’s the sound of New Year’s resolutions being announced, shared, circulated, and committed to memory (and to paper, and calendars, and apps… ah, modern technology).
Six months later, you find that piece of paper, that napkin, or that note on your phone, and you ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” (Every time I find the resolution I’ve made about cleaning my house on a weekly basis, which I seem to make every year, I cringe – and then I grab my Swiffer).
So what happens to New Year’s resolutions once the haze of champagne, toasts, and parties wears off? Do we even remember what we pledged to do six months ago?  Have we stuck to it?
Sadly, in most cases, the answer is a resounding NO.
There are as many reasons for failed New Year’s resolutions, as there are typical resolutions. You know the usual suspects: the weight loss resolution (in which thou shalt de-mampify), the money-saving resolution (in which thou shalt count thy pennies), and the moving ahead in life resolution (in which thou shalt be a better person, or find a better way of paying the bills). The reasons all of them fail go across the board.
The guilt factor
Most resolutions are based on guilt of some kind. Honestly, by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, many of us have spent weeks eating incredible amounts of delicious things (oh, the pork and the ham and the pastelles and the punch a crème and rice’n’peas and the pork… did I say the pork?), and imbibing enough alcohol to put a mid-sized brewery out of business. Even if we haven’t personally done this, we’ve witnessed the potential mampifying of many of our nearest and dearest. Frankly, we’re just indigested by the time January 2nd rolls around, which makes it very easy to swear we will get healthy and lay off the tuna puffs… Until the next party rolls around, of course.
The excess factor
Get out your calculator, and start adding it up. Gifts. Wrapping paper. Tape. Shoes and outfits for Christmas parties. Travel. Airfare. Cards. Postage. Those three cakes you promised to bring to your cousin’s party. The Christmas season can put a serious dent on even the heftiest bank accounts. There’s nothing like staring at the bank statement on January 2nd (and uttering a few choice words) to put the will to save into us mere, non-millionaire mortals. Until Carnival comes around, that is… And then Easter, and then the next thing… You get the idea.
The everybody’s doing it factor
Seriously… everyone from your great-grandmother to your friend’s ten-year-old is hollering out his or her resolutions. So you do it too – never mind the fact that everyone is doing it is because, well, everyone is doing it too. You don’t want to be left out, and you don’t want others to think you’re not taking on the spirit of the moment, and hey, why not join ‘em? So you resolve your money or coconut bakes away.
Guilt, excess, and bandwagon jumping may be great motivating factors, but they’re not enough if there’s no planning behind them. That is why our resolutions tend to falter. Who sits there on New Year’s Eve and plans for this?
We pick one day of the year to amass our guilt and desire to improve our lives and ourselves, and pronounce that we intend to make things better. However, most of us stop at calling them New Year’s resolutions, and we don’t always take the necessary steps to outline them into a full New Year’s Plan, which is what should be posted on our calendars and Blackberries for us – and all the world – to see.
The lucky people who stick to their New Year’s resolutions are those who look beyond the motivation, and actually lay out a plan: tangible action points, quantifiable outcomes, milestones, risks, rewards…  In other words, they get down to business:
– Your sister who decides to lose weight and get fit and goes about planning by eating fewer doubles (one per month), drinking less juice (one glass on Sundays), and exercising five times per week (with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays dedicated to a brisk walk on the Savannah, Tuesdays at a fitness class, and Saturdays cycling in Chaguaramas) WILL lose the weight. The rest of us will be lucky to get her cast-off “big clothes”.
– Your friend who sets up a new savings account and a budget, buys two, fewer meals out each month, switches car insurance to get a better deal, and cuts down on transport costs (by taking maxis or carpooling) and house costs (by turning off lights and using less AC) will have a nice, lil’ nest egg by the end of the year. Sadly for the rest of us, they probably won’t be spending it on an end-of-year party. They’ll just sock it away.
– Your cousin who decides that she wants to better her career (and then signs up for some adult education courses applicable to her career, takes on a new and challenging project at work, and begins networking to find further opportunities) will have something to show – whether it’s a new job, a raise, or a set of improved skills that will get her to a better place – by the time you next clink champagne glasses on December 31.
The other thing this sneaky, successful at goals posse knows is that you need to have different kinds of goals. For instance, “get a better job” countered with “eat one more serving of vegetables each day”, or balancing “losing thirty pounds by next December” with “wearing more lipstick” (wait, or is that last one just me?). Either way, the sense of success earned from hitting just one or two small goals at a time can sometimes be just the confidence boost we need to nail the big life-changers.
So, what if we can’t plan ahead and give our resolutions the time and commitment they’re worth? Well, my friends, I’d advise you to do as I’ve done so many New Year’s eves past. Grab your drink and get yourself to the kiddie table, far from the Resolution Brigade, and, most importantly, keep your mouth shut firmly lest you utter a resolution that will come back to haunt you in June.

newyearsresolutionsWhat is that sound following the clinking of champagne glasses at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day? Oh, of course – it’s the sound of New Year’s resolutions being announced, shared, circulated, and committed to memory (and to paper, and calendars, and apps… ah, modern technology).

Six months later, you find that piece of paper, that napkin, or that note on your phone, and you ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” (Every time I find the resolution I’ve made about cleaning my house on a weekly basis, which I seem to make every year, I cringe – and then I grab my Swiffer). 

So what happens to New Year’s resolutions once the haze of champagne, toasts, and parties wears off? Do we even remember what we pledged to do six months ago?  Have we stuck to it?

Sadly, in most cases, the answer is a resounding NO.

There are as many reasons for failed New Year’s resolutions, as there are typical resolutions. You know the usual suspects: the weight loss resolution (in which thou shalt de-mampify), the money-saving resolution (in which thou shalt count thy pennies), and the moving ahead in life resolution (in which thou shalt be a better person, or find a better way of paying the bills). The reasons all of them fail go across the board.

 

The guilt factor

Most resolutions are based on guilt of some kind. Honestly, by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, many of us have spent weeks eating incredible amounts of delicious things (oh, the pork and the ham and the pastelles and the punch a crème and rice’n’peas and the pork… did I say the pork?), and imbibing enough alcohol to put a mid-sized brewery out of business. Even if we haven’t personally done this, we’ve witnessed the potential mampifying of many of our nearest and dearest. Frankly, we’re just indigested by the time January 2nd rolls around, which makes it very easy to swear we will get healthy and lay off the tuna puffs… Until the next party rolls around, of course.

 

The excess factor

Get out your calculator, and start adding it up. Gifts. Wrapping paper. Tape. Shoes and outfits for Christmas parties. Travel. Airfare. Cards. Postage. Those three cakes you promised to bring to your cousin’s party. The Christmas season can put a serious dent on even the heftiest bank accounts. There’s nothing like staring at the bank statement on January 2nd (and uttering a few choice words) to put the will to save into us mere, non-millionaire mortals. Until Carnival comes around, that is… And then Easter, and then the next thing… You get the idea.

 

The everybody’s doing it factor

Seriously… everyone from your great-grandmother to your friend’s ten-year-old is hollering out his or her resolutions. So you do it too – never mind the fact that everyone is doing it is because, well, everyone is doing it too. You don’t want to be left out, and you don’t want others to think you’re not taking on the spirit of the moment, and hey, why not join ‘em? So you resolve your money or coconut bakes away.

Guilt, excess, and bandwagon jumping may be great motivating factors, but they’re not enough if there’s no planning behind them. That is why our resolutions tend to falter. Who sits there on New Year’s Eve and plans for this? 

We pick one day of the year to amass our guilt and desire to improve our lives and ourselves, and pronounce that we intend to make things better. However, most of us stop at calling them New Year’s resolutions, and we don’t always take the necessary steps to outline them into a full New Year’s Plan, which is what should be posted on our calendars and Blackberries for us – and all the world – to see.

The lucky people who stick to their New Year’s resolutions are those who look beyond the motivation, and actually lay out a plan: tangible action points, quantifiable outcomes, milestones, risks, rewards…  In other words, they get down to business: 

  • Your sister who decides to lose weight and get fit and goes about planning by eating fewer doubles (one per month), drinking less juice (one glass on Sundays), and exercising five times per week (with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays dedicated to a brisk walk on the Savannah, Tuesdays at a fitness class, and Saturdays cycling in Chaguaramas) WILL lose the weight. The rest of us will be lucky to get her cast-off “big clothes”.
  • Your friend who sets up a new savings account and a budget, buys two, fewer meals out each month, switches car insurance to get a better deal, and cuts down on transport costs (by taking maxis or carpooling) and house costs (by turning off lights and using less AC) will have a nice, lil’ nest egg by the end of the year. Sadly for the rest of us, they probably won’t be spending it on an end-of-year party. They’ll just sock it away.
  • Your cousin who decides that she wants to better her career (and then signs up for some adult education courses applicable to her career, takes on a new and challenging project at work, and begins networking to find further opportunities) will have something to show – whether it’s a new job, a raise, or a set of improved skills that will get her to a better place – by the time you next clink champagne glasses on December 31.

The other thing this sneaky, successful at goals posse knows is that you need to have different kinds of goals. For instance, “get a better job” countered with “eat one more serving of vegetables each day”, or balancing “losing thirty pounds by next December” with “wearing more lipstick” (wait, or is that last one just me?). Either way, the sense of success earned from hitting just one or two small goals at a time can sometimes be just the confidence boost we need to nail the big life-changers.  

So, what if we can’t plan ahead and give our resolutions the time and commitment they’re worth? Well, my friends, I’d advise you to do as I’ve done so many New Year’s eves past. Grab your drink and get yourself to the kiddie table, far from the Resolution Brigade, and, most importantly, keep your mouth shut firmly lest you utter a resolution that will come back to haunt you in June.

 

Image credit: iStockphoto.com

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Laura Ortiz-Garrett

A Puerto Rican transplant to Trinidad, Laura Ortiz-Garrett is a freelance writer and copyeditor. She works for a US-based newswire agency, contributes to the health blog Hollaback Health, and blogs about daily life in Trinidad, fitness, style, and all things Carnival on her blog “Adventures in Tralaland” (www.laurageorgina.com). When she’s not training for a road race or counting down the days until Carnival, she’s taking pictures for her Tumblr.

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