There are a lot of reasons not to make New Year's resolutions, and everyone wants to tell you all about them:
- They just don't work.
- People don't stick to them.
- You’ll fail if you take on too many resolutions at once.
- Making them on New Year's is totally pointless because goals can be made anytime, and
- They’re no longer cool because everyone's making them.
This anti-resolution sentiment means that practically every wellness publication and influencer on the planet will encourage us to make "anti-resolutions," remind us that resolutions are "bullsh*t," recommend we "just commit to small changes," or instruct us about "how to deal with annoying January gym-goers." They'll post funny memes about how everyone has already given up by January 2nd. So hilarious.
LOL LOL LOL.
But this hoity-toity, "holier than thou" approach makes me mad.
Sorry you've already got it figured out, perfect humans, but some of us normals are actively struggling to improve and working to get better.
Instead of judging, let’s love that people want to change, help them to succeed, and make it more likely they’ll actually stick to their resolutions. There's no time like the start of a new calendar year to embark on a big change.
Here's why we should embrace New Year's resolutions instead of fighting them:
1. Resolutions really can work.
Most New Year's resolutions will be abandoned, it’s true. But some won’t, and can even change your life.
Don’t believe me? Here are two of mine:
In 2012, I resolved to stop being late to meetings. My mother was notoriously late to everything—and I mean everything, even college graduation. Despite a general intention to be different, I'm ashamed to admit I also spent too long taking everyone else's time for granted. You know, the old, "Sorry, team member—I'm not done, so you can wait for our meeting."
Finally, someone on our team bravely brought my habitual lateness up to me, and I realized how sh*tty I was for making people wait. I resolved to be different starting that January 1st, and since then, I've changed my ways. I'd say I'm on time (if not early) to almost all meetings, and when things are delayed, I’m quick to communicate and apologize. Everyone else's time is as valuable as mine—of course it is.
In 2014, I finally took control of my personal finances. I had mostly been ignoring them since starting Greatist, and I was woefully behind. It took a near-failure at Greatist (and some brutal self-discovery) to figure out why I was avoiding it. Reading Ramit Sethi's awesome book twice helped me take charge, and I haven't looked back since. In fact, I spoke with Jerry Colonna on The Reboot Podcast about this tough (but important) experience.
And I'm not the only one who actually follows through on New Year’s resolutions.
Fellow entrepreneur Alex Lieberman of the dope Morning Brew newsletter (one of my few daily reads) decided to stop drinking soda cold-turkey in 2011, and it changed his life.
My friend Elizabeth decided to pick up the violin two New Years’ ago and has been playing ever since. She even captured her monthly progress for the first 30 months on her Instagram (#violinprogress). Turns out, she’s mad-talented—and even released a freakin' album last year.
So New Year's resolutions can work. Maybe yours will too.
2. Taking on too much might be the only way to find changes that really stick.
Maybe overcommitting isn’t such a bad thing.
No, you don't need to become an entirely different person to succeed at your New Year’s resolutions. Ultimately, you just want to find a few good habits to stick with so you can be healthier long-term. I get it.
But how do you discover those habits? How do you fall in love with something new that's good for you too?
Well, it's hard! We’re all busy at work and already know what we love doing with our friends. When are we supposed to find time to step back and try something totally different? I think one way (maybe the only way) is to overdo it for a bit. Approach New Year's as an opportunity to commit 100 percent to something you're a little uncomfortable with and unaccustomed to:
- Decide you want to try that interesting restrictive diet everyone’s raving about.
- Choose to go for a run every single day because you’d like to move more.
- Try every type of meditation because everyone swears it’s life-changing.
Not for a whole year, maybe—but let’s say for just the month of January. You may not stay a raw vegan, run an ultra-marathon, or become a Buddhist monk, but you’ll almost certainly become aware of meals you enjoy that feature less red meat, find a running playlist that gets you out of bed, or discover you’re a better partner after just a few minutes of mindfulness.
To discover and commit to these "mini resolutions," you have to first try and discard lots that aren't right for you—and that's OK. By going all in to start, you might just end up with a few healthy habits that work their way into your life for good.
3. Working with others to accomplish your resolution together can be crucial to success.
Sure, New Year's resolutions are popular. Sometimes it feels like everyone wants to lose weight next year. But don't let the fact that most people want to lose weight hold you back from actually losing weight. Embrace the popularity of the resolution instead—January is a great time to find others who want to do the same thing you do.
Secretly thinking about committing to a Dry January? You won't be the only one. Whole30? Half your friends are probably thinking of trying it out too. In January especially, it's socially acceptable to make a change and announce it to the world, so embrace it and join with others to work hard and stick with something.
Support is often critical to a resolution’s success… and (plug alert!) that’s one of the primary reasons we're building Greater, a pop-up support group app, which can help you accomplish your health goals with other people who are trying to do the exact same thing you are.
Everyone doing resolutions just means it’s easier to find people to do them with!
4. The end of one year and the start of another can be a monumental time.
Every new year we confront our mortality. And so does everyone else. We’re all getting older together.
OK, that got a little morbid.
But it’s true—we don’t really treat our birthdays as a chance to turn over a new leaf. Instead, we usually celebrate them by going HAM on some ice cream cake. New Year’s, on the other hand, is different—we’ve done our indulging over Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Boxing Day (we don’t even celebrate Boxing Day but had sticky toffee pudding in honor of it anyway). The gingerbread and eggnog and pumpkin pie and all that goodness are done with. There's basically nothing super social and big to commemorate again until freakin' St. Paddy's Day in March.
Anyway, all this positions New Year’s as a rare, remarkable time when we can choose to reflect on the year that’s gone by and then push forward, start from scratch, and reinvent ourselves. Every chance to step back and potentially commit to making a change is a great one—let’s not discard the opportunity just because it’s been done before.
Conclusion: New Year's is awesome.
And New Year’s resolutions—big, fat, scary, ambitious ones—aren’t pointless. They can work, and you may just end up sticking to them (or, more likely, a piece of them) forever. They’re an opportunity to find social support, pressure, and accountability from friends like never before. And there’s no better time to start than after the champagne’s been popped and you’re looking ahead at a long (and potentially life-changing) January.
Derek Flanzraich is Greatist's founder and CEO. What's Good is his take on the news, trends, and issues worth talking about in health and wellness.