Taking on 2013 with a vengeance

New Years resolutions / Graphic by Jennifer Kwan
Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The clock struck midnight, the confetti polluted the streets, the fireworks popped and crackled, and now that the holidays are over you’re ready to turn your life around. It’s a new year, a fresh start, and you’re going into it bright-eyed. The year 2012 was supposed to be better than 2011, and obviously 2013 will be better than 2012, right?

It’s almost as if the whole world just decides to do a major clean up at the start of each year and everything is reset. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that people want to set goals, but there are a lot of common resolutions that set the bar a little too high and are just begging for failure.

“I believe that the resolutions we make are only there to comfort us for the time being,” said Concordia Student Jessica Palmieri. She doesn’t make resolutions because she feels like “slapping a label” on something makes it more difficult to do.

The all too common weight loss and gym resolution is probably one of the most popular. Dieting programs step up their advertising and gyms are filled to the brink in the days following Jan. 1. They’ve been dubbed the “resolutioners,” with gyms seeing an increase of almost 100 per cent, according to CBC and the Wall Street Journal. This only lasts a few weeks though. Time magazine states that things usually go back to normal in February, with 60 per cent of the memberships bought gone down the drain.

Other popular resolutions are to quit smoking, drastically change a diet and to become more knowledgeable about something. Realistically, though, you cannot just say that you’re going to learn Italian if you’ve never spoken a word or that you’re going to quit smoking just like that if you smoke a pack a day.

The way we formulate our resolutions simply sets us up for failure. As a recent study done at the University of Scranton and published in the Journal of Psychology shows, only eight per cent of Americans who make resolutions are actually successful in achieving them. Clearly not the percentage most want to see.

Resolutions are based on the willpower of the individual and some experts say your brain just cannot handle the stress of such sudden changes. As a Stanford University experiment explains, your prefrontal cortex is what handles your willpower. Willpower needs to be built up and trained. The best way to train for things is to take baby steps. This can also be applied to setting goals.

The worst thing that you can do is decide out of the blue that you’re giving up chocolate. An hour later, you’ll find yourself surrounded by gold and brown Ferrero Rocher wrappers with your cats pawing at them and judging you. Then you’ll hate yourself.

The issue is that we set high goals for ourselves that aren’t alway manageable and once we fail we find ourselves terribly discouraged. That’s why I think you need to set small goals at first and then continue to work up to more drastic changes. The light at the end of the tunnel needs to be visible, and you need to make sure it isn’t a train coming to hit you head on.

There are also resolutions that just don’t make much sense to me, specifically when it comes to habits we’ve had for a very long time. Charles Duhigg, New York Times writer and author of “The Power of Habit,” explains in his book that habits are compulsions, things that we’ve been doing for so long that we don’t even realize it anymore. A lot of work goes into breaking a habit, and it goes much deeper than we think.

I’m not trying to put anyone down for trying to improve his or her life, however, I think we should be setting goals for ourselves all year long and constantly taking little steps to improving ourselves. Now, if you’d excuse me, I have some chocolate to give away.

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