Against New Year Resolutions
By Christian Tesfaye ( Christian Tesfaye (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a researcher and Fortune’s Deputy Editor-in-Chief whose interests run amok in the directions of political thought, markets, society and pop culture. )
There is a perk to living in a country that uses the Gregorian calendar, such as Ethiopia. We get to make a New Year’s resolution twice. The first one is in September, when we take stock of all that has transpired throughout the year and hope to do better. But that may never pan out. Maybe we are too caught up in the complexities of life and career to make it work. No problem. We try again in the Gregorian New Year.
Of course, the problem with such resolutions is that they usually fail. There is, first of all, no reason that something we have been unable to get done this year can be accomplished beginning on the first day of the next. Nothing really changes between December 31 and January 1. Calendars are merely numbering methods created by humans based on the passing of the seasons and then perfected with later scientific knowledge of the rotation of the earth around the sun. It is all in our heads that a new year is an optimal time for a resolution. All that really happened was that gravity created a curvature in space-time to loop our planet around the star closest to us in the galaxy one more time.
Still, we make New Year’s resolutions because we collectively and historically have become attached to the idea that every passing year is an opportunity to restart. Thus, we make plans, or vow to develop or curb some habits. Again, there is a problem with this.
Mainly, it is because the novelty of the new year passes pretty quickly. Once the celebrations and get-togethers are over, it becomes clear that nothing has really changed. The same problems and weaknesses are staring us right in the eye. Our problems are just as stubborn, the path forward just as daunting and our fears just as intimidating to address squarely. We find out that nothing has changed to ensure the success of our efforts. The same old obstacles remain.
A habit we could not form last year becomes just as hard to initiate on this one because nothing has come to propel us towards it. Instead, the reason we have been waiting for the New Year is not because we believed we could do it. We are just procrastinating, and we probably knew this all along.
To give credit to a select few, it could also be the case that we are especially committed to making our resolutions come true. Some are indeed resolute. They do have the determination and will to carry out what they have set out to do.
Here again, there will be a problem. There is also no accounting for the fact that each passing day brings with it changes that are not in our hands to control. The problem with putting off things for another day, for this or that New Year, is that our problems only expand in depth and scope as time goes by. A new year may sound like a good time to put things in order and execute, but a deferred starting day, especially as arbitrary as New Year, is bound to complicate things even more.
We should make resolutions but not on New Years. Despite what pop culture makes us believe, this usually ends in disappointment as there is no reason we will suddenly muster a courage that we could not in the previous year. A better predictor of success is to not procrastinate but to put into action whatever we are planning or start forming that habit right away. The only acceptable New Year resolution is not to need making one.
By Christian Tesfaye
Christian Tesfaye is a researcher and Fortune’s Deputy Editor-in-Chief whose interests run amok in the directions of political thought, markets, society and pop culture.
Published on Jan 09,2022 [
Vol 22 ,No 1133]