Is there anything in the world that is at once as noble and as endangered as New Year's resolutions? Various polls and studies show that only 10 to 25 percent of people keep the promises they set for themselves when the calendar changes. That makes hearing about my friends and colleagues' New Year's resolutions kind of like watching a nature documentary about the birth of sea turtles. You love them, you want them to make it. But you know most of them are going to die off, either picked off quickly or through starvation, before they ever reach maturity.
Why is it that New Year's resolutions have such a hard time surviving outside the womb? I have a couple ideas about that. One is that perhaps they are not fully formed at birth. The more specific the goals we set for ourselves, the better chance we have for reaching them. For instance, instead of saying "I will eat better", set out a regimen for yourself wherein every Sunday you plan, and shop for, a week full of healthy meals and snacks. Just like that, the end you want comes with its own means of realizing it.
The second reason our New Year's resolutions face such a tough trek towards realization is the importance we place on the "New Year" part. It gives the whole endeavor a "one shot" kind of feel. As a result, when we screw up -- and we all do at some point -- there's a sense of finality to the whole endeavor (or at least a sense of "oh well, there's always next year"). While we should approach our goals with full commitment, we should also understand from the get-go that achieving them is a process that includes stumbles--and stumbles are never fatal.
The New Year ahead brings 366 New Days (it's a Leap Year!). That's 366 opportunities to fine-tune our regimens, to evaluate our stumbles, and to start putting one foot in front of the other as we move towards our goals. So let's set those goals without cynicism or shame, and let us resolve to see each day of 2020 for what it is: an opportunity to nurture and grow the desires we have to become better people.
Happy New Year, everyone.