OP-ED: New Year, Old Me

Bernadette Russo, Associate Editor-in-Chief, Junior

”I’m going to go to the gym every day this year!” thousands of hopeful people murmur at the onset of the new year. Sorry to say, but it’s probably not going to happen. While the new year is supposed to be a time for new beginnings, not many people actually commit to achieving their goals. ….. What is the point of making a resolution, only to follow through with it for the first two weeks of January and forget you even made it by the time February rolls around? While there may be positive short term impacts of assigning yourself large goals, resolutions serve no purpose in effectively motivating people for the new year.

To compensate for a bad day, month, or even year, people strive to start anew. Researchers from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania have coined this term as the “fresh start effect,” where “people are more likely to take action towards a goal after temporal landmarks that represent new beginnings,” like the start of a new year. It is optimistic to strive for a clean slate, but there comes a place where failed overreaching has become repetitive and unprofitable. According to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 percent of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution, 8 percent of which will succeed in keeping it for the entire year. If the vast majority of people fail to sustain their goals, then what is the benefit of setting them in the first place?

In aiming for a clean sweep, humans tend to set unattainable and vague goals, making themselves victims of “false hope syndrome.” According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, false hope syndrome is defined as a “person’s unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease, and consequences of changing their behavior.” …..

Common resolutions like planning to lose a significant amount of weight, quit smoking, or save money, are often made out of impulse. While the establishment of these goals is a method of self-reflection, it is rarely specified exactly how much weight to lose, how to get in shape, how to quit smoking, and how to develop a plan to actually save money. More to the point, these goals are unreasonable and unattainable. Losing fifty pounds in a year would be a commendable achievement, but it is probably safer to reach for ten, or set incremental goals, and see how that goes. There is a clear difference between being optimistic and setting unrealistic expectations.

Most people are not even aware that their likelihood of failure is based on the ambiguity of their goals. Organization company, Franklin Covey, found that 40 percent of people blame their busy schedules for a lack of follow-through. Failure to maintain resolutions are, in part, due to exceeding limits and, as a result, overestimating the amount of time there is in a day. Every year, humans fail to recognize the pattern in their non-fulfillment, and continue to repeat the vicious and redundant cycle.

According to psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD, “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a single, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for. Remember, it is not the extent of change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”