Overrated: Goals shouldn’t require the turn of a calendar
Notice anything lately? The gym is over-populated, the dining hall’s salad line is especially long, and iPhone screen time is suspiciously low. It can only mean one thing: It’s a new year.
Fear not — in a month or so, things will go back to normal; there will be a shortage of fries at the Sizzle station and all those Instagram users who said they “needed a break” will make their triumphant returns. Why, then, do we make grandiose gestures of self-improvement in the first month of every new year?
Chances are, if you need a new year to improve yourself, you’re not that willing to improve yourself anyway. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn’t matter if your goal is to eat better, to spend less money, or to be a better person: that goal won’t be successful if it requires a flip of the calendar.
Setting goals is easy. Accomplishing them is more difficult and rare.
It takes tenacity to stick to a goal for 12 months, but there’s no evidence that resolutions prove effective long-term or that the new year brings increased productivity.
Pre-industrial revolution factory workers held relatively constant rates of production. Despite New Year’s goals, the assembly line functioned at the same hourly rate in January as it did in December — and no matter the time, day, or month, that line kept rolling. We should approach life like this: a steady stream of productivity, in spite of obstacles or setbacks.
Of course, there are peaks of productivity in any occupation or life. But those peaks aren’t in January, when you’d expect fired-up go-getters of the New Year to strike. After analyzing data from 1.8 million projects and 28 million tasks, researchers at the data content firm Priceonomics found that the most productive time of year is actually at 11 a.m. on a Monday in October.
So this year, just save yourself the trouble of virtue-signaling your goals for the new year. You don’t need a reason or landmark to aspire to something — just do it.
Life is a series of progressions. If you need a concept like the “New Year’s resolution” for that statement to ring true, live better. Year-round.
Haley Strack is a sophomore studying politcal economy.
Underrated: Resolutions habituate virtue within the bounds of time
New Year’s resolutions are overrated only for the weak-willed modern man.
Many find New Year’s resolutions to be kitschy, filled with images of packed gyms on Jan. 2, an increase in Nutrisystem subscriptions, and a jump in Nicorette gum sales. Yet New Year’s resolutions hold the remarkable potential of habituating virtue within the bounds of human nature.
As evidenced by holidays, feast days, and days of fasting, people participate within the bounds of time, a social construct, according to their nature and for their own benefit.
This is also noticeable in the beginning and ending of seasons, such as the New Year. People look back over the past year — and the ups and downs that it has brought — and look forward to the next passage of life. A New Year’s resolution acts as a refresh button, a time to recenter oneself.
Resolutions are ineffective for the person who gives up on them, forgets about them, or creates overly general goals, like “I’m going to go to the gym,” or “I’m going to eat healthy.” A constructive resolution involves a reachable, precise goal, that also leads to a greater virtue and good. For example, “I am going to call home at least twice a week,” not only is an achievable goal, but also develops the virtue of selflessness, as well as time management. Or turning “I am going to learn to paint,” into “I am going to paint, and give that painting to a friend,” not only involves a specific achievable goal, but also involves the practice of generosity.
Many people misunderstand human nature by assuming that most people can immediately complete their resolutions. Then, upon failing, they shame themselves and give up. The weak New Year’s resolver leaves his resolutions immediately after failing once, assuming that the game is over, the mission is lost. The strong New Year’s resolver acknowledges the possibility of failure, but resolves to continue to try. In his failings, he learns about himself, and in trying again, he begins to create habits and ultimately, virtue.
Finally, New Year’s resolutions act as a means for people to remember their mortality, their death, and for Christians, their hope. Upon noticing that they constantly fail in their goals, rightly ordered New Year’s resolvers are reminded of their mortality. They are humbled, which acts as another kind of recentering. And while failures remind us of our inability, for Christians they also remind us of grace. New Year’s resolutions can act as a small soteriological reminder, particularly given the New Year’s place in the octave of Christmas.
In conclusion, New Year’s resolutions are underrated in this modern society which values comfort over responsibility. Good New Year’s resolutions involve responsibility and push the person to virtue, but only for those who understand their own nature and position in the created order.
Aidan Cyrus is a junior studying philosophy.