As the final notes of “Auld Lang Syne” trail off into an early January morning and the last noisemaker is swept off the floor, visions of low-carb diets and nicotine patches dance in the heads of millions of Americans at the beginning of each new year.
Putting the previous 364 days in the past, the drop of the ball signifies a fresh start, a clean plate, a chance to remedy everything that went wrong the year before.
According to Proactive-coach.com, 40 percent to 45 percent of Americans make one or more resolutions each year, with weight loss, exercise, diet and debt reduction leading the ranks.
Of that sample, the percentage of those who actually stick to their resolutions begins to slope downward as soon as the following week. Two weeks into the new year, 29 percent abandon their resolutions.
After a six-month period, only 46 percent of those who resolved to change remain in the running. Far less than 50 percent of those who make resolutions actually stay committed, but why do Americans need a specific day to rid unhealthy habits or unwise financial choices from their lives?
“The slate is clean and we have an urge to fill it,” said professor of psychology, Dr. Marsha Weinraub.
“I think that urge reflects our hopefulness about the future
and our eagerness to improve ourselves in areas that are important to us.”
Weinraub suggests perhaps resolutions often do not work out because they are made without a lot of thought about what is really required to effect the change in question.
“Our society talks about New Year’s resolutions as if they are something you’re supposed to do, but we don’t give a lot of direction about how to go about making realistic goals and meeting them,” she said.
“More often, they reflect our interests and desires, our hopes and dreams, more than they reflect our true commitment to change.”
In the past, Brandice Pierre, a third-year law student, resolved to lose weight and manage her time better, but this year she decided to not make a resolution since she never sticks to them. Ed Pinckney, a copy center employee at the James E. Beasley School of Law, has the same New Year’s resolution as last year – to lose weight.
“I’m still working on it,” he said. “Sometimes I think we make promises we can’t keep and we cheat a lot. It’s kind of hard to keep a good diet, especially when you work around all these food trucks. I’m standing here right now trying to make up my mind what I want to eat, maybe shrimp lo mein and some broccoli.”
This year Temple employee George Carey decided to switch things up. His New Year’s resolution: to stop making New Year’s resolutions. Carey, a painter, usually attempts to quit smoking each year, but doesn’t last more than two days before breaking down. “I gave it up all together,” he said. Not all of campus has succumbed to resolution shutdown.
Walking to the IBC for an afternoon workout, Steven Bryson, a senior theater major, remained faithful to his resolution to get in shape by the end of spring semester. Bryson plans on eating healthy, working out three times a week and limiting his alcohol consumption. With three weeks into January, how is it going so far?
“Well actually, my New Year’s resolution was for when school started [one day earlier],” Bryson said.
“When people want to make changes, they need to realistically assess whether the goal is attainable,” Weinraub said.
“Second, they need to consider what the barriers have been to making these changes up to this point. Once these barriers are assessed, the individual can think about what it would take to remove them.”
Weinraub said we often don’t have the knowledge it requires to make significant life changes. “For example, to lose weight, we need to have an eating plan which is realistic and capable of being sustained over time,” she said. “New Year’s is just a date, but it gives all of us hope,” said assistant kinesiology professor Joseph R. Libonati. Society has been hoping to change since the Babylonians first resolved to return borrowed farm equipment to their neighbors 4,000 years ago.
“People run into problems when they try to do too much,” Libonati said. “It’s an unrealistic expectation.” Libonati said resolutions often fail because
people want results – and they want them fast. For those concerned with weight loss and dieting, it takes time to take the weight off. He suggests incorporating healthy decisions into one’s lifestyle one step at a time.
“At New Year’s we all think, ‘wipe the blackboard clean,'” Libonati said. “You can’t wipe the blackboard clean, but you can improve the blackboard and it has to be realistic in how you’re going to improve it.”
Leigh Zaleski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.