Are New Year’s Resolutions Helpful?


I like to ask people what their New Year’s resolutions are. It seems like an effective way to start an interesting and meaningful conversation. Or start a fight.

Because, come on: New Year’s resolutions? Didn’t we suffer enough in 2020 to now put ourselves through the self-defeating promises made/promises broken routine for 2021?

But we all want to be better, do better, and feel better, so we often turn to New Year’s resolutions when the calendar turns.

Most resolutions involve fitness/weight goals or financial goals. Unfortunately, few of those resolutions stick.

As Arthur C. Brooks writes in The Atlantic, it makes sense that such resolutions rarely succeed: “If meeting self-improvement goals were so easy, we wouldn’t need to make resolutions in the first place—we would just change.”

Instead of resolutions that ask us to engage in a version of self-sacrifice (exercise more, spend less) in order to self-improve, Brooks suggests the resolutions of forgiveness and gratitude, neither of which require exhausting ourselves, denying ourselves, or sabotaging ourselves, but both of which can contribute to happiness and well-being.

I flirted with an offshoot of gratitude in 2020, when I embraced the concept of savoring after taking the Science of Well-Being class early in the pandemic. Savoring is an immediate, in-the-moment, sensory experience, and I savored shaving, my raspberry crop, a winter hike, even my silent wind chimes. I felt better for it.

Melissa Kirsch, writing in the New York Times, recommends we think small and make only tiny resolutions, “keeping in mind that your nerves might be frayed, your zest for a life overhaul a bit depleted.”

Instead of the broad and subjective resolution of “getting fit,” she suggests perhaps resolving to stretch a couple times a week or doing two push-ups every day, then seeing where it leads.

By now you must be wondering what my resolutions are. Sure: run a marathon, eat a strictly vegan diet, make more money, write a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, consume less alcohol and other substances, never say a mean word to or about anyone . . .

In reality, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions—there are just too many to choose from. But I do think of the new year as a fresh start, and I’ve also been thinking recently about how to “bring out the best in me.”

Yes, that’s vague, subjective, and open to almost any interpretation, but fortunately the interpretation belongs to me and me alone.

For me, being my best me means being a reliable, loyal, and helpful person. It means I offer thoughtful counsel when my counsel is called upon. It means I give my best effort, be insightful, have perspective. To know when to challenge and when to comfort.

In short, I want to be on my game, and who doesn’t love the feeling of being on their game? I can’t always do it, of course, because who can, but trying to be that person is what will bring out the best in me.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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