An Argument Against New Years’ Resolutions

Happy New Year!I should start by saying that this is not an all-out assault on every form of New Years’ resolutions. There are, in fact, people for whom the traditional notion of New Years’ resolutions works remarkably well – I’ll say more about these types of people, whom I’ll refer to as Self-activators, in a moment. However, I would argue, there are far more people (AKA, the rest of us) who are swept up into the very attractive notion that the right New Years’ resolution will bring us one step closer to the eternal bliss that a gym membership, one-of-a-kind-juicer or other panacea-of-the-moment surely promises. We have all been the latter person at least once and, more likely, are that person on a regular basis; which is why I am arguing against the traditional concept of New Years’ resolutions.

Traditional New Years’ resolutions

The general tone of traditional New Years’ resolutions goes something like this: “The New Year means a fresh start. I believe that I can be a different person if I feel like I have a fresh start, and I’ve been waiting for a fresh start ever since my last perceived failure. Therefore, January 1st is the perfect time to make myself perfect once and for all. And isn’t it convenient that the expensive gym down the street is waiving initiation fees until January 15th for anyone who commits to a two-year membership? See, the stars are aligning and my life will be perfect by January 30th. “

Sound about right?


There are people who self-activate, meaning that they can consistently create their own motivation to do things such as complete both simple and complex tasks, set and achieve goals and hold themselves accountable. These people are generally driven, self-confident and action-oriented, as you might imagine. They are also rare and – this next point is incredibly important – just as human as the rest of us. By that I mean that they fail, they fall short of their goals and they are not always happy with themselves or their lives.

So what makes them different than the rest of us? The answer is that they don’t give up. Self-activators don’t let failures – real or perceived – deter them from their goals; instead, they tend to learn from the past and apply their learnings to the future. Self-activators are resilient, they are focused on the entirety of their journeys and, importantly, on maintaining or improving upon any results they achieve.

Self-activators come from all walks of life; this gift is not only bestowed upon people such as star athletes and business magnates. Many self-activators will admit that they were not born with the ability to motivate themselves; rather, it was a skill they acquired while overcoming an obstacle or after becoming frustrated with the outcomes in their lives to that point.

The rest of us

For many of us, though, self-activation doesn’t come naturally and isn’t something we have learned to do with the type of consistently we might like. And, let’s be brutally honest: our culture in the United States convinces us that a certain level of “perfection” is the only real path to health, wealth and happiness. Of course, that “perfection” comes in many forms and is countered by the conflicting message that the stresses of our lives can and should be addressed with beer and fast food while sitting on the couch. If we sit on the couch, eat buffalo wings by the bucketful and gain 20 pounds, is all hope of true happiness lost, then? No! There’s always January 1st, after the last of the holiday parties and just as a new tax year begins, to save us.

Sarcasm aside, we truly are given mixed messages about what health and happiness looks like, and how to attain it. The truth is, there is no single, guaranteed path to health and happiness; these things are as individual to each of us as our own fingerprints, and should be treated as such. Since most of us are not self-activators, we tend to need help defining, attaining and maintaining our visions of health and happiness. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The argument

This leads me to my argument against the traditional notion of New Years’ Resolutions, which goes something like this:

  1. When we make New Years’ resolutions, we often make them out of desperation and with a sense of hope that’s grossly out of proportion with reality. We should stop there, but most of us do not.
  2. In order to make ourselves accountable to our resolutions, we make one or more large purchases, usually in a somewhat showy fashion. The thinking here is that a large, unwieldy exercise contraption in our living rooms will make us more likely to exercise every day, for example, because how can we avoid exercise if the machine blocks our path to the kitchen? Red flags should be going off at this point, yet many of us ignore them.
  3. We work feverishly to keep our resolutions, look at us go! I’m a workout maniac, says our social media post. I’ll lose 20 pounds of buffalo wings in a month at this pace (note the goal escalation here?)!
  4. Then life happens, and we didn’t account for life when making New Years’ resolutions. We catch a cold, we have to go on a business trip, the workout regimen we created isn’t sustainable. Suddenly, dust forms on the exercise machine that has become invisible to us, even as we climb over it each time we need to go to and from the kitchen. And this is the escape hatch we needed to slide out from under the burden of the New Years’ resolutions we made and now need to re-think…until next December.
  5. Now that we have “failed”, the only reasonable thing to do is to completely sabotage our New Years’ resolutions so that we can say they were never really attainable in the first place.

The bottom line

The self-inflicted shame spiral described above needs to stop. Our beliefs and expectations are out of whack and, therefore, the way we define and attempt to attain health and happiness is not working for us. We need to stop buying into the fantasy that there is one foolproof way to ensure our eternal health and happiness. There is no silver bullet, folks. In fact, if we’re being completely honest, no one is 100% happy and healthy all the time. And no amount of unrealistic New Years’ resolutions will ever fix that.

So, now what? Instead of making New Years’ resolutions, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Forgive yourself for not being “perfect”. You are amazing, right now and just the way you are.
  2. If there’s something you want to improve, allow yourself to ask for help rather than giving in to beliefs and expectations that aren’t truly serving you. Then, set realistic goals and a way to keep yourself motivated to work towards them.
  3. And, lastly, give yourself the gift of being able to maintain any successes you achieve to every extent that’s reasonable. You deserve it.

At mydietribe we firmly believe that all forms of wellness – physical, emotional, spiritual and financial – can only be achieved and attained using methods that are both simple and sustainable. If you’re ready for help achieving and maintaining your wellness goals, we can help. Contact Catherine at

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