…And no, the answer is not “so I can keep making bad decisions all year.”
First of all, I love everything about resolutions. Resolving to do something means you have made a decision to challenge yourself. Being resolute means you believe in something strongly. If you have resolved a problem, you have accomplished something. All of these are wonderful, positive things.
So why do we only do it once a year? It’s not that I am opposed to deciding to change your life on the first of January each year. I’m opposed to not trying to change your life for the better on every day of each year. The implication of New Year’s resolutions is that you only make them once each year – and that will make for a very static 365.25 days.
New Year’s is a pretty arbitrary time to make a resolution – there’s no change in season, nothing exciting really happens for any time in the foreseeable future, and most cultures celebrate a New Year on day just as random as ours. Any psychologist, life coach, businessperson, or generally successful human will tell you that in order to successfully impact a change on your life, you need an incentive. Unless you really like the number 14, changing your calendar is a pretty poor one. Also, a year is a really long time to enact most resolutions – really, you’re setting yourself up to procrastinate. And lastly, making New Year’s resolutions is such a traditional thing to do that most people don’t even put any thought into it, much less a plan (another thing you need in order to succeed at just about anything, by the way).
I’m not saying New Year’s Eve isn’t a great time for some reflection – but any time is a great time for reflection, and ideally it would happen more than once each year. Like everyone else, I lead a busy life and often I need something to remind me to stop for a minute and think of how far I’ve come – and how far I still have to go. Usually that happens when someone asks me for my “professional opinion” (or I find myself on a plane towards New Jersey), but if looking at the calendar and noticing it’s the 31st December is your motivation then that’s great too.
Similarly, you should make resolutions any time you feel your life needs a change. I make resolutions on a daily basis, and I tend to be pretty successful with them. My most successful resolution was made a few years ago. On 8 February 2009 I decided I was going to go to the gym every day – and I kid you not, unless it was closed or I was off travelling the far corners of the world, I have been to the gym every single day since then (even a gaping wound in my ankle didn’t stop me from a gentle yoga practice). Sure, the date is just as arbitrary as 1 January, but something that day got me to make that decision and stick with it. That is a resolution that happened to stay - but not all resolutions should.
As I mentioned before, sticking with one idea for 365 days would make for a static year. Making a decision with the intent of keeping it for a full year is setting yourself up for failure not only because a year is a long time, but because if your life changes and your resolution is no longer relevant, you will see it as a failure. I became a vegan about a year ago because I thought it would make my singing voice clearer – sort of important for someone studying to be a professional vocalist. It was great, and it worked while I was living alone and always cooking for myself. But now that my situation is different, it’s no longer conducive to my lifestyle. Had I said “I am never going to eat anything with milk ever again,” I would be feeling pretty down on myself. New Year’s resolutions simply do not allow for the flexibility we need in our lives.
On that note, I would like to wish you all a wonderful, prosperous year and beyond. I hope you skip the guilt-ridden New Year’s resolutions and instead choose to spend some time reflecting on everything you have and have yet to accomplish :)