It’s hard when you want to change your habits, your lifestyle, and your personality. A perfect example of my failure to instigate change is when I installed the smartphone application, TimeTune, worried that because I was not managing my time effectively enough, I would wake up one morning at the age of 50-something and realize that I wasted my life. I therefore used TimeTune as a tool for “living in the moment,” minute by minute and hour by hour, hoping that rigidly sticking to a preplanned schedule every day would slow time down.
One week later, I succumbed to laziness and stopped using the app. My resolution to put my time to better use quickly became a dissolution.
Change sounds good in theory, but in practice it almost always falls flat. This is likely due in part to the rapid diffusion of motivation interchangeable with feelings of disillusionment, lethargy, and apathy. I can’t begin to express to you the number of times I convinced myself that I’d be a better, happier, and more wholesome human being without alcohol, only to binge-drink Fireball just two short days later. Or the number of times I promised to study harder and write more, only to spend five hours browsing Reddit or watching YouTube videos. Simply put, change for the sake of changing is doomed to fail because, unless the stakes in the game are high and the will to change is uncompromising, we lack the accountability necessary for making meaningful progress.
Just think of the middle-aged, morbidly obese man who’s been informed by his doctor that he needs to start eating healthier if he wants to live to see his daughter grow up. This man, upon realizing that the time he could spend with his daughter is more valuable than the self-destructive lifestyle he’s been practicing for so long, starts eating well and making regular visits to the local gym. On the other hand, if the man’s radical lifestyle change had been influenced by the start of a new year, and not by his doctor’s judgment, then he would’ve cancelled his gym membership after a few days and went back to eating fast food. Only when the man perceived that his morbid obesity was a genuine threat to his existence, and a possible obstruction to spending time with his daughter, did he finally decide to put in the work and make the change that he needed to.
Not surprisingly, New Year’s resolutions are successful barely 8 percent of the time, with a whopping 48 percent of people claiming to have “infrequent success” (“New Years Resolution Statistics,” 2017). Nonetheless, I think there is a certain solace to be found in New Year’s resolutions, as they manufacture the illusion that change is quick and immediate when in actuality, it is a long and vigorous journey marked by acute failures, disappointments, and setbacks. But if you really want to quit smoking, eat healthier, or exercise more frequently, then it wouldn’t matter when you backslid once or twice because this change—whatever it is—is still important to you, and you’ll work tirelessly to achieve the desired results.
Change not because it’s a new year or because “everyone else is doing it,” but because you see the benefit in it for yourself.
New Years Resolution Statistics. (2017, January 1). Retrieved January 2, 2018, from https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/