To resolve or not to resolve? Do New Year’s resolutions serve any purpose? Do they do any good? This week I’ve read several commentaries on this topic, which interested me because I decided not to make any resolutions this year.
One argument against resolutions is that we don’t follow them, at least not for long. We won’t lose weight, exercise, eat more vegetables or cut out sweets just because we decided in the midst of feeling guilty over too many holiday indulgences that we should.
These kinds of changes call for new habits, which are not easy to acquire. In her article, “Forming a habit is a marathon not a sprint” (December 18, 2011 Seattle Times), Nara Schonburg reports that in a European study of “96 volunteers…the total time it took for a behavior to become habit ranged from 18 to 254 days.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to skip my favorite foods for two days, much less two hundred fifty-four, so no resolutions about cutting back on chocolate and weight loss are coming this year. I’ve found that I’ve been more successful losing weight in the past year without them. There are many reasons, but one is that I didn’t set a specific target, give myself deadlines or put unnecessary pressure on myself, all things I associate with failed past resolutions.
Is there anything redeeming about resolutions? Some writers say yes, especially if we focus more on serving our families and our communities, instead of our own personal gain. In “Thirty Thousand Days,” a publication of the ToDo Institute, Gregg Krech comes up with a list of ten actions to get the year off to a good start. He doesn’t refer to them as resolutions, but when the list begins with “Exercise” we know what we’re dealing with. My two favorites are to complete unfinished projects and improve attention skills. The latter involves shifting our attention away from our lives, our worries, our goals and becoming more mindful of our surroundings and how we’re living. As good as they sound, I’m making no commitment to either. At this age who has time to seek perfection.
Mr. Krech takes the opposite tack in another article in which he refers to a New Year’s haiku by Kobayashi Issa in which the poet expresses hope for a year full of mystery, making the point that since there’s much in life we can’t control, we’d benefit from learning to accept what comes. In searching for this particular poem I found a different New Year’s haiku by Issa, one that puts the start of a new year in perspective.
New Year’s Day–
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.