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What's your take on New Year resolutions?

Over the next few days, millions of people from all around the world will make promises to themselves about things they'll do (or not do) in 2011. Some folks will aim to lose weight (I plan to shed a few holiday pounds my own self). Some will resolve to give up smoking, or drinking, or gambling or all three. Some will vow to cut back on the amount of time they spend in front of the telly, or to spend more time with their loved ones. You name it, chances are that somewhere, someone is making a New Year's resolution to either do it or stop doing it.

But do any of these promises actually help? Do people ever keep them?

If you ask me, I'd say it depends on why those resolutions are made. Like most things we promise ourselves, if we only do it because we feel we ought to, or because someone says we should, I suspect out chances of success are slim. On the other hand, if it's something we really think is important, it'll happen (or not happen, depending on whether we're looking to achieve an objective or give something up).

Twenty years ago this Friday, I made a resolution to give up alcohol. I wasn't quite at the 'one drink is too much and not enough stage' but I had a problem. With the exception of asking Senior Management to marry me, it's far and away the smartest decision I ever made. Aside from the occasional glass of Baileys every year or so, I've kept that promise to myself, and quite frankly, I'm a better man for it. 

Mind you, on the other hand, I've made dozens, possibly hundreds of other New Year resolutions before and after, none of which I kept to for more than a few months.

Does a failed resolution help or hinder you in the long run? I don't know, but if the only resolution I ever keep is the 'No more drinking' one I made back in 1990, I'll continue to think they're a great idea.

How about you?

What's your take on New Year's Resolutions?

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( 59 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 29th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
New Year is symbolically important...but I've made few New Year's resolutions that I kept, although I've made resolutions at other times of the year which stuck, although I'd probably call these decisions, not resolutions.

What I think it's good for, though, is sifting through your life and thinking about what's important and perhaps setting goals, realistic goals. Writing some every day, for instance, or putting one's book buying on a reasonable budget (important for me...I go on research binges, and well-done histories and references of the type I usually want get pricy.)

That's my take on it anyway.
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
Fair enough :) I do think they're a good way to re-focus on some things, even if that re-focus doesn't last all year.
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
I think the only New Year's resolution I ever kept was the one I made in about 1998, which was not to make any more New Year's resolutions because I always broke them.

I am resolved to start work on my next novel before 2011, but that's less a proper resolution than a prerequisite to getting paid on time.
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
Good luck with that new novel. What's it called?
(no subject) - maeve_the_red - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
I think the problem is that few of us are ready to resolve anything
on or around New Year's Eve.
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
I think it helps to at least think about the coming year, even if we don't quite manage to reach our goals.
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 29th, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
Okay, this brings up a pet peeve of mine. Please pardon the rant.

New Year's resolutions bother me because I think people should be able to make a resolution at any point of the year. I see far too many people give up on their resolution in February or so and say, "Oh well, I'll try again next year." It just seems like a set-up for failure if a person is only willing to make an effort once a year. Better to set short term goals, like weeks or months, and go from there. That way set-backs don't seem quite so daunting.

I do set my writing goals at the beginning of each year, and I try and be as specific as possible in my aims. I try and avoid the word "resolution," though. ;)

Dec. 29th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sallymn - Dec. 29th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
I've never made a New Year's resolution in my life. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because I try to look at the way I do things and change them as needed during the course of the year... Or maybe it's because I know that I won't manage to get things done if I try to do too many at once.

BTW, I salute you for managing to identify your nascent drinking problem and deal with it. That is a resolution that is definitely worthwhile.

Happy 2011, Jon!
Dec. 29th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)

Just kidding :)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Dec. 29th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 29th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 29th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
I look on them in the same way used to view staff reviews.
Dec. 29th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
Actually, I gave up on New Year's resolutions years ago because, to me, they became one more thing to worry about and a way to guilt-trip myself. Then I decided to look at making a resolution differently - not as something punitive, but as an opportunity to commit to something that mattered to me. So I said that I'd do my best to write every day, even if only for ten or fifteen minutes. And I managed to do it!

So now I only make "resolutions" that are actually promises to do something good. And I don't worry about goals. I think the trick is to commit to something you (1) really want to do, and (2) actually can do. Then the commitment is an encouragement, not a sword over your head.

My two cents!
Dec. 29th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
Congrats on writing every day :)

I think you're spot on with the commiting to something you really want to do thing.
Dec. 29th, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC)
i've made the same one for about the last twelve years: commit one politically-motivated act per week. i find this level sustainable; i used to get a lot more involved and then burnt out.

otherwise, i guess i feel too generally subject to circumstance to make resolutions. (if i miss a week on the above, it's not a big deal to catch up and feel okay about it :)
Dec. 29th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
I think the other half of successful resolutions is forgiving yourself when you fail.
Dec. 29th, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
I don't think that they are harmful, even if you break a billion of them, it only takes once of sticking to it to turn things around, it gives people a regular chance to try again.
Dec. 29th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
Very true. Some folks give up smoking dozens of times before they actually give up for good.
Dec. 29th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
I agree 100% with your take on this topic.
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
Dec. 29th, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
I make resolutions, rarely, but I do, but I don't need New Year to start them. In fact, if you're waiting until New Year that probably means that the resolution is not a serious one and you're not going to keep it.
There is no point in resolutions if you don't have the willpower to stick to them, or if they are just simply too impractical or require too much change. The good old losing weight resolution has no power if the rest of your family is not in on the deal. Getting more exercise is not going to work if you have full-time care of two toddlers and no one to look after them.
Resolutions work if you can see a gap in your life where you're currently doing something non-descript, where you can take that gap and do something different with it.
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
I agree about the importance of family to weight loss. Living with people with unhealthy eating habits means constantly living with temptation only a frig away. Having people insisting upon so much of your time that you can't get exercise makes it rough, too.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 29th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 29th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
Well first of all, congrats on giving up drinking, and sticking with your promise! My hat's off to you, Jon :):):)

I agree that it's the "why" that makes the difference. I would also argue that the "when" doesn't matter so much. There is nothing magic about the date of January 1, that makes us more likely to succeed. If one is ready to commit to make a change, one day is as good as another to begin.

Now if you can get Snowy to give up chocolate milk... ;)
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
Snowy says I can have his chocolate milk anytime...so long as I'm prepared to pull it out of his cold, dead paws :)
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
My New Year's Resolutions are always, and probably always will be, weigh less and write more. But what is the point, since I always write and always watch my weight anyway?
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I guess it's a reminder at least.
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
I've made resolutions to sub at least 3 stories/month, and I think it helped me sell more.
Dec. 29th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I should think those kind of resolutions are particularly helpful, especially if they garner some early results to keep you motivated.

Congrats on those sales too :)
(no subject) - melissajm - Dec. 29th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 29th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC)
I gave up making them years ago!
Dec. 30th, 2010 10:07 am (UTC)
Any particular reason why?
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Dec. 30th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
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