Like I Was Saying

The Ridiculed Resolution

Millions of people are keeping their resolutions every year and are, most likely, better off for it

By Kellyn Brown

It’s tough to predict the future, even though nearly all of us try, especially when the calendar is about to flip from one year to the next. We usher in January by making predictions, but we call them resolutions because it sounds better and, well, more resolute. 

We tell ourselves that we are going to lose weight and stop smoking and save money. We tell ourselves that all we need is a new year to provide motivation to make these changes. And, more often than not, we fail. Resolutions are made annually, we’re told, because by the time the next year rolls around we make the same ones all over again. 

It’s like a broken record, these resolutions. And a relatively long one. According to websites that research this sort of thing, we have been making resolutions since the ancient Babylonians, or roughly 4,000 years ago. Back then, humans would celebrate the new year – at the time, in mid-March instead of January – when crops were planted during a 12-day festival called Akitu. These people made a bunch of promises to “the gods,” reaffirmed their loyalty to the king, and hoped that if they stayed true to these resolutions it would result in good fortune during the following year. 

The Romans and emperor Julius Caesar tweaked the calendar to establish January 1 as the beginning of the new year in 46 B.C. But the tradition of making resolutions has endured all the way to modern times, where we continue to make promises we traditionally can’t keep. 

Most polls find that nearly 40% of all U.S. adults and 60% of young adults – those aged 18-34 who are either more naïve or more ambitious or both – set New Year’s resolutions every year. Of all those goals set, only about 9% are reached. And those who fail, tend to fail fast. 

According to Strava, a running and cycling app, January 19, or roughly the third weekend of the month, is “Quitter’s Day.” That’s the day when, according to the company’s data, people are most likely to abandon their resolutions. They don’t even make it three weeks. 

All of this is to say: “What about the 9%!?” What about the nearly one in 10 people who make a promise to his or herself and follows through? How do they do it? Why aren’t they more celebrated? Sure, it’s a small number, but it’s by no means insignificant. It means millions of people are keeping their resolutions every year and are, most likely, better off for it. 

Like everything else in this interconnected era, we tend to focus on the negative. We are more attracted to stories about how people fail than how they succeed. It’s easy to get stuck in the doldrums of negativity and doomscroll through our social media feeds to reaffirm our beliefs about what’s wrong with the world. It’s much harder to turn the prism and recognize the best parts of life, but in 2023 I’m going to try that instead. 

So, therein lies my resolution, the simplest of them all: I resolve to be more positive with my family, friends and colleagues. There is a 9% chance I will succeed, which is far better than nothing.  

Wish me luck … and Happy New Year!