Making Resolutions Outlast January

by | Jan 1, 2021 | Living

As Ayn Rand put it, a value is something you act to gain or keep. A desire without action then is just a wish.

I love the concept of New Year’s resolutions. They’re always positive and typically involve self-improvement. I mean, whoever heard of anyone resolving, “This will be the year when I finally get fat” or “I hereby decree to spend less time with my children”?

Of course, New Year’s resolutions are fodder for late night comedians because most of them are broken by mid-January.

Why is that? Why do people make promises to themselves they don’t keep?

Lack of willpower is part of it, I’m sure. But I think lack of planning accounts for many of the failures. It’s not enough, for example, just to resolve to lose weight or read more books. How much weight and by when? How many books and what kind?

Goals should be measurable and concrete. Losing 30 pounds by year’s end, for instance, is a resolution you can sink your teeth into. It translates into 2.5 pounds per month. By breaking it down like that, what might have seemed abstract is now something solid; what perhaps seemed daunting is now suddenly doable. Then you’d just need to implement the necessary lifestyle changes and stick with it.

Instead of promising to “read more books,” be specific. Will 10 horror novels suffice? Maybe not. Think about what would make you proud of yourself this time next year.

How about committing to read a dozen classics. That’s a very achievable one book per month, pretty good for someone who perhaps isn’t much of a reader. And it’d be a worthwhile accomplishment.

The point is you got to have a plan. Making the goal measurable is the first step. Breaking it down into time increments is the next. This makes resolutions both more tangible and attainable.

While planning is essential, of course, it won’t make you follow through. And failing to follow through is the fate of most New Year’s resolutions, unfortunately. I believe this is because, deep down, many resolution-makers don’t really value whatever it is they’re resolving to achieve.

If all you do is sit around pining for a thinner body, more passionate relationship or keener mind, but take no actions to attain them, then you’re just kidding yourself about what you purportedly value. As Ayn Rand put it, a value is something you act to gain or keep. A desire without action then is just a wish.

So resolutions should be premised on honesty, honesty with oneself, if they’re to have any hope of outlasting January. They should be based on genuine values and pursued with thoughtful planning and deliberate action. Then 2020 can be a year to be proud of.

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Wayne Dunn writes about political and cultural events from an Objectivist perspective.

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