Why Your New Year's Resolutions Never Work, And What To Do Instead

Do you even remember what you resolved to do in 2012? If you want to make changes in 2013, your resolutions have to mean something. Here's how you do it.

Pop quiz: What was your New Year's resolution for 2012? How about 2013? Do you remember what you said about the new you that would emerge, butterfly-like once midnight struck on our arbitrarily decided endpoint of the year? Making New Year's resolutions are halfway to picking which superpowers you want: it's fun, committment free and doesn't ever really lead to anything.

Why? Well, almost every New Year's resolution you will hear follows this pattern: I will do less of something that I like to do but that is probably bad for me, or the opposite: I will do more of something healthy and unpleasant. Eat healthy, exercise more, drink less, drink/eat more kale smoothies, take walks, devote myself to a life of charity and service. You stop doing that stuff by February for the same reasons that you weren't doing it in the first place: you don't want to.

Last year, I cracked the code. I came up with my best New Year's resolution, and the only one I've ever followed through on. I recommend you steal it. Here it is:


Rock became the deciding vote when I needed one. It meant going to a show or approaching a stranger when the angels of my safer nature were pulling me down more conventional roads. It meant pushing harder in grad school and on my book, because school is its own form of rocking. Sometimes rocking was staying in and reading a book, and sometimes it was ignoring fatigue and partying more. See, I was always willing to go with "rock," because I always want "rock" to win. That's the sign of a good resolution.

My 2013 resolution is harder: Speak up. "Rock" was pure life-affirming, but "speak up" forces me to interact with the reasons that I don't always. Still, I know it's a good principle, and one I need, so, with only 362 days to go, I think I can do it.

So, in conclusion, if you are picking New Year's resolutions (and hell, it's only January 3rd), go for principles that actually describe someone you would enjoy being. That will get your id and superego working together. I'll bet you get more out of that than your new gym membership.

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