The New Year is here, and already the first month of 2016 is over. Do we want to talk about our resolutions? Or have we already hidden them under a rock somewhere, with a resolve never to think about them again? Perhaps you’ve chosen something completely doable, and are currently riding the high tide of success. Or, perhaps you didn’t even bother to think of a resolution at all, since, really, what’s the point? It’s all hype anyway, right?
Why do we make resolutions? A better question, why do we make resolutions on the first day of a new year? What if I told you that the Gregorian calendar, the system of time we use today, is simply a human construction? Time isn’t really segmented into months, weeks, and days; we made it up. Does it change your mind about what should be considered the “first day of a new year?”
Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University, has an interesting answer as to why we commit to a resolution at the start of January. He calls it “culturally prescribed procrastination.” Essentially, we deliberately hold off on making any goals or resolutions until the New Year because of the established cultural practice to do so.
There can be no denial that the society we actively participate in helps to influence how we structure our lives. With the idea of the New Year’s resolution already firmly ingrained in our culture, it’s easy to ignore the motivations behind why we follow this social trend. If your friends are making resolutions, if dozens of magazines are pumping advice articles on how to make and keep those resolutions, why not make one yourself? And then either follow it or break it depending on your strength of willpower.
Back in December 2015, the looming topic of resolutions came up in conversation between two friends and I in a café. One friend in particular, Daniel Kazandjian, had a rather interesting perspective on the topic of New Year resolutions. Rather than one resolution a year, he would aim for twelve: one for every month of 2016.
“In general, people don’t get what they want without aiming for it. So why wait until New Year’s?” He explained to, at the time, a skeptical me. “You know this—there isn’t anything intrinsically special about January 1st. Also, setting goals once a year is too infrequent, you should exercise your ‘goal-setting muscle’ more often. Pick another arbitrary time frame. Thirty days is a good amount of time to build or break most habits. It’s also short enough to fully commit to something bold, without worrying too much about the consequences.”
This method of month-to-month resolutions could be the perfect tool to breaking the chain of failed New Year promises. Setting a short-term goal can be viewed as a stepping stone to an ultimate, greater achievement; they can become a part of a larger package of change. The benefits of setting short-term over long-term goals are also quite attractive. Each small success will build a stronger sense of confidence.
When we make one daunting New Years Resolution, it can be easy to become stuck on the “how.” Often, there is no longevity attached to these yearly goals. And then there’s that second part of this resolution culture, the expectation that these resolutions will be broken. Thought of in this way, the entire purpose behind making such annual promises can seem redundant.
It can be hard to commit to something for twelve months. The daunting connotation of the world “year” itself implies heavy commitment. But what if we broke our goals down to something a little more manageable? What if we choose to better ourselves in increments rather than in leaps and bounds? For one thing, we’d probably have a lot more bragging rights.
Photo courtesy of The Typical Female Magazine via stocksnap.io
Stephanie Buosi is the managing editor for On the Danforth summer edition. She is also the current editor for Erebus Press and a regular contributor for MOGUL, an award-wining technology platform for women worldwide. Follow her on twitter @quillSbuo or visit her website, stephaniebuo.wix.com/author, for more information and free fiction.