Let Me Tell You What I Think: Happy New Year’s resolutions

Rules are made to be broken, and so are New Year’s resolutions.

“May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions,” comedian Joey Adams said.

It’s a new year, baby. Father Time is dead and gone and Baby New Year is too busy hitting the gym to mourn him.

It’s resolution season, so moms expect more phone calls from their children, treadmills expect the cobwebs to be cleared, cigarettes expect to see the lining of a garbage can and bosses expect their employees to secretly look for better jobs behind their backs.

Statistically, according to Time Magazine, there’s a 50 percent chance you made a New Year’s resolution. You probably chose one of the most popular resolutions: losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, reducing debt or spending more time with family.

There’s also a 50 percent chance you didn’t make one at all.

“Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve stuck with it ever since,” Dave Beard said.

If you did and you’ve already broken one of your resolutions hopefully you made another one to not to get disappointed with failure. But don’t worry; you’ve got plenty of undisciplined company.

According to www.proactivechange.com, by this time next month only 64 percent of people will have kept their resolutions and by this time in June, only 46 percent of people will have kept their resolutions.

That percentage isn’t exactly impressive, but it’s the number that resurfaces each year. Year after year, 54 percent of people give up on their goals and wonder why we make resolutions anyway. According to Dr. John Norcross, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, we can blame it on the Romans.

“It begins with history,” Norcross said. “Worshippers in ancient Roman times would offer resolutions of good conduct to the god Janus, the two-faced deity looking backwards and forwards. And since that time, it’s become a socially-sanctioned time where the plate is clean and everyone has a new opportunity.”

According to www.psychcentral.com, humans don’t make resolutions because they’re masochists who like to see themselves fail. They make resolutions because it feels good to start over and begin anew and humans intrinsically want to become better.

“Most of us have a natural bend toward self-improvement,” psychologist Dr. John Duffy said.

It’s easy to start the year starry-eyed and optimistic, but it’s a little tougher four weeks into it when those doughnuts you’ve been resisting start to look really good. Most of us wouldn’t accept failing so miserably at anything else in our lives, so why do we fail with our resolutions?

“They’ll fail because they’ll eventually run out of willpower, which social scientists no longer regard as simply a metaphor,” John Tierney said in the New York Times. “They’ve recently reported that willpower is a real form of mental energy powered by glucose in the bloodstream, which is used up as you exert self-control.”

According to psychologist Roy Baumeister, exercising willpower in large amounts can result in “ego depletion.”

When you completely cut yourself off from things that you want, that stringent regimen can result in mental fatigue and make you quit all together.

Instead, experts say it’s better to ration your willpower. Be realistic with how much self-control you have and direct it towards one specific goal at a time. It’s also important to reward yourself when you succeed.

“If you use willpower only to deny yourself pleasures, it becomes a grim, thankless form of defense,” Tierney said. “But when you use it to gain something, you can wring pleasure out of the dreariest tasks.”

According to Time Magazine, it’s better to have resolved and failed than to have never resolved at all. The success rate of 46 percent of New Year’s resolvers suddenly looks spectacular when compared to the only 4 percent of people who succeed in accomplishing a goal after not making a resolution.

“Contrary to widespread public opinion, a considerable proportion of New Year resolvers do succeed,” Norcross said. “You are 10 times more likely to change by making a New Year’s resolution compared to non-resolvers with the identical goals and comparable motivation to change.”

It’s easy to be cynical about New Year’s resolutions because it’s not easy to change. It’s hard to look at yourself and decide you don’t like what you see. It’s difficult to wake up every single morning and consciously do something your body doesn’t want to do. It’s easy to rationalize, procrastinate and be apathetic. At the same time, it’s easy to look in a magazine or at someone else’s life and resolve to not be you.

“We spend Jan. 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for flaws, but for potential,” journalist and author Ellen Goodman said.

An unpolished diamond may be rough, but its flaws don’t take away from the fact that it’s still a diamond.

tsheffield@unews.com

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