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New Year’s Musings: Where Will You Be This Time Next Year?

New Year’s is traditionally a time we resolve to ‘do better’ on all sorts of accounts. But, as we saw in yesterday’s post, in the part about resolutions, we’re not very good about keeping them. Or do the stats really say something different than the pollsters conclude?

Calvin and Hobbes - © Berkeley BreathedSome folks never make New Year’s resolutions…

A brief recap of salient points…

According to a new poll commissioned by CNN, ‘only’ 43 percent of Americans asked said they still made resolutions on New Year’s Eve. And ‘only’ about 2/3 of those managed to keep their resolutions ‘at least in part’. Sounds like a pretty poor effort, when you express it in those terms. But I think it’s actually pretty good – all things considered.

Consider, if you will, the restraints and deprivations COVID has placed on life over the past two years. It’s pretty hard to keep resolutions about increasing one’s prosperity when you’ve been jobless for months and have been struggling just to survive. Lockdowns and associated pandemic abatement protocols have hit the gym industry hard, and folks have turned into couch potatoes. Even if all the exercise you got before COVID was running for the bus, you weren’t even getting that. And a money shortage compounded by food shortages and high food prices made it extra hard to keep resolutions about eating healthier.

Nevertheless, resolutions to exercise more and eat better topped the topic list this year. Which brings me to one of my pointed observations…

Not what they seem

Resolutions are not what they seem – New Year’s resolutions doubly so. (Acknowledgement due here to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

It’s a matter of perception, in the same vein as the one I illustrated above, about whether the survey stats on resolutions were a good sign or an ill omen.

The genius writers behind Yes, Prime Minister had Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby muse (I paraphrase): “You don’t support proposals because they do good. You support them to show what you approve of.”

And, on resolutions, I say: “Resolutions aren’t made to be kept. They’re made to make you feel better about yourself for having made them.” Not simply to show what you approve of. We can always find lots of ‘reasons’ (justifications and rationalizations) after the fact for not having kept our New Year’s resolutions. And many folks do just that along about Easter. To them, I echo my paternal granddad’s favourite proverb: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

So where does that leave us with the CNN survey?

If 43 percent of folks asked indicated they approve of making resolutions, there’s still hope for the survival of the tradition in the future. It’s the difference in outlook between saying ‘fewer than 50 percent’ and ‘almost 50 percent’. See?

And if ‘more than 2 out of three’ folks who do make resolutions keep them (even if it is ‘at least in part’), that’s still about 30 percent of the total survey pool. Which is a lot more folks keeping their resolutions than I expected!

But let’s get serious for a moment…

We should all at least show we approve of exercising more and eating healthier in the coming year. If we do our best – i.e.: keep those resolutions at least in part – we will be doing considerably more than just showing what we approve of, and making us feel better about ourselves.

~ Maggie J.