Who has not made ( and inevitably broken ) New Year resolutions ?

The very mention of New Year Resolutions is an invitation to a round of jokes from listeners at any New Year’s party. We have all become so used to breaking our resolutions within weeks ( days even !) of Jan 1 that we are resigned to laughing at the human folly of expecting the future to be any different from the past.These past few days I am holidaying in Houston at my brother’s place and this time away from home has given me opportunity to reflect.

First of all, why do we make these resolutions ? I think it is that all-too-human tendency to want a fresh start. A start that is not colored by the failures of the past, from the untold number of previous stumbles on this same subject. It is no surprise that health clubs in the US show a great increase in new memberships in the first few months of the year, every year.

Another familiar tendency is to aim too high. Most people want to turn their life around dramatically in the new year, and make up for all real or perceived short-comings in their life. This includes losing dozens of pounds, sticking to rigorous diets, attaining financial goals like reducing wasteful expenditure, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a new language, and so on and so forth. Most people want to do all the above in the same year !

Is it any wonder that the odds are heavily stacked against us keeping these resolutions – if the New Year were a living being it would be scared away by these monstrous expectations we have placed on it !

I have also pondered on why we fail to keep these resolutions. The first and foremost is perfectionism. Imagine ( Why just imagine , this is my favorite resolution each year ) I make a resolution to go the gym every day in the new year. I might make it to Jan 10 without skipping a day. And then, inevitably, there will arise circumstances that make me skip a day – for perfectly good reasons. However, there goes the resolution. The fact that I missed one day makes me give up on the whole thing ( “I already missed one day, what difference does it make if I miss a few more” ) and soon it will be a miracle if I go anywhere near the gym. When we get reminded of our resolution from friends and family, we smile wryly and say “Just wait and see next year’s resolution” . This pursuit of perfectionism sets us up to fail each year – and yet we continue to do this year after year! No wonder there is a saying in America that goes “Perfect is the enemy of good”