An Ode To The Urge to Make Resolutions And Why We Fail Them
Do you pledge to be a better version of yourself every year? Do you want to join the 5 am club? Do your eyes sparkle when you see discounts on gym memberships whenever new year approaches? If you said yes to any of these questions then you give in to the humanistic urge of associating change with the new year even though procrastination has you beat (or you wouldn’t be reading this article).
Call them truth bombs but here they are: If you always set New Year’s resolutions, you may just be using them to procrastinate instead of actually turning over a new leaf. Delaying things just to do them after a certain period of time because you feel you’ll be more productive then is just a straight-up lie 😐.
Every year millions of people around the world pledge about staying fit, many do big ups to them, but some of us end up over-promising by paying the annual gym fee but cannot continue after a few months (read: weeks). This capitalist society is not good for us.
But, hold up, giving up on resolutions is not exactly new. The first New Year's resolutions are said to date back around 4,000 years to the Babylonians. They are believed to be the ones to start this practice throughout Akitu, a 12-day long New Year celebration as they gave themselves ultimatums to follow through on their promises.
Following in their footsteps was Emperor Julius Caesar in his fancy-ass new calendar in 46 B.C. that declared January 1st as the beginning of a new year. The Romans also used to make sacrifices and promises of good deeds for their upcoming years. Ahh, when in Rome……………..
Over time, the practice slowly became a social more and just like the trajectory of all social mores, it also became satirized slowly.
Why resolutions don't usually work
Nowadays resolutions are more self-centred, concerned with self-improvements, driven by the indulgence of the Christmas period. A jolly time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with extensive wish lists, 10,000 vision boards, a 360-degree makeover, and just all the good stuff woohoo!
That’s amazing really, the aspiration needs to be applauded but these plans are made in a rush of feelings. Stuck in this trap, most of us set ourselves up for failure because of extremely overwhelming goals and underwhelming plans of action.
Aiming for the moon can be psychologically so hard that it can eventually become impossible to launch. And failing to launch brings with it kilos worth of disappointment that's as harmful for your self-esteem as Instagram.
Studies prove that around 80% of people lose all this good-spirited energy along with the will to complete the resolutions, left only with remorse brought to you by the death of the said resolutions.
But there’s obviously a reason that despite more than 4,000 years of practice, these numbers are no closer to improving. Change no matter how tempting brings out a certain resistance, a friction in us for now we have to actually act upon what we planned to do. And who wants to go through the gruesome process of implementation, right?
Moreover, experts also say that we often fail to keep our New Year's resolutions because of unreasonable expectations (yeah, no shit). So, it is advised to set small, not-so-scary, not-so-life changing tasks rather than burying yourself under a gigantic avalanche of resolutions. This is so as once you break down these larger goals into smaller tasks, they won't seem as daunting.
How Stoicism helps
When it comes to keeping resolutions, stoicism might come in handy. It is based on focussing on the positive emotions and minimizing on the negative ones. No, it's not based on denial, hear us out! It is somewhat based on self-improvement and honing the qualities you already have. It expands on how we can only control things "of our own doing" and everything else, we do not have a hold on. And that's exactly where it fits in this context.
Circling back to some of the most common resolutions which are to stay fit, read more, sleep on time and not waste time doomscrolling on the internet. The list goes on. But a lot of these things are not under our control.
You might say that one is in charging of dragging one's ass off the bed and onto a treadmill to stay fit. But you cannot avoid certain circumstances. What if you are navigating through a jam-packed schedule with work, leaving you with zero to none time to exercise? Or it could simply be that you cannot afford a proper workour and diet plan that's needed to stay fit.
Similarly, sleeping late can also be due to a combination of reasons. Revenge bedtime procrastination for one, given the capitalistic, hustle-culture environment we live in or it could be a mix of anxiety and paranoid that keeps you up in anticipation of the coming day.
The examples above were a part of the situations as to why only a few pass this IIT-JEE New Year’s resolutions exam. By all counts, only 8% of people achieve what they resolved to do at the beginning of the year.
Toh kya ab main sapne dekhna chordh du?
Nahi, Bilkul nahi but try out the Stoic path by accepting that we as humans only have control over our own self and not external circumstances.
Try rephrasing your resolutions for starters- "I'll try my best to stay fit" and "I'll do my best to sleep on time." You might not see the mental revolution this will cause but your subconscious sure will as this gives you more control without freaking the shit out of you.
And if things go haywire and you don't achieve your targets, cut yourself some slack as Stoicism functions on a self-and other-forgiving philosophy so if you fall, pick yourself back up.
Running the risk of sounding like your mom or dad or those nosy relatives, we'd like to say that change has nothing to do with an auspicious date that a potentially power-hungry Emperor put on a calendar. Change is not a to-do list task that you can check off to feel better about yourself, it is an everyday progress. So, revel in it and take it one shot at a time rather than gulping the whole bottle in one sitting.