Most New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to February

Most New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to February

Many of the New Year’s resolutions we make focus on health. Losing weight. Exercising more. Quitting cigarettes. Most of us, however, need to add another to our list of aspirations for the dawning year.

Namely, finding more willpower.

A 2021 survey of 300 adults by Australian researchers found that two-thirds of us give up on our resolutions before February. That’s right. Those promises to take better care of ourselves don’t survive a measly month.

A hint from scientists on maintaining our goals: Don’t be influenced by guilt or shame.

They note that those motivated by intrinsic reasons for making a resolution fare better. These are folks whose New Year’s goal touches on what researchers call a fundamental psychological need. That could include goals that give us a sense of competence, fulfillment, enjoyment or worth.

Those who follow extrinsic motivations, investigators say, often crash and burn. These motivations include feelings of guilt or shame, or trying to win the approval of others.

The study notes that being flexible about resolutions and persistence help us achieve our New Year ambitions. Don’t set a lofty goal and just give up when it proves unachievable.

We should take some solace that humans have been making, and breaking, resolutions since the dawn of civilization.

Babylonians 4,000 years ago promised the gods to pay their debts and returned borrowed items in the New Year, which for them commenced in mid-March.

Romans in the time of Julius Caesar resolved to the gods to behave themselves in the coming year. As Roman history amply attests, this resolution often didn’t survive to Februarius [feb-BRAH-yooce], either.


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