You can’t break your New Year’s resolution if you don’t make one

Published 7:43 am Friday, December 31, 2010

Well here it is, friends. It’s the beginning of another new year. It’s a time of hope and a time of possibilities. It’s a time of new beginnings.

And it’s a time when columnists will typically and predictably write about their New Year’s resolutions.

They’ll tell you about all the things that they’d like to accomplish with their New Year’s resolutions. They’ll also tell you what they’d like other people to accomplish with their New Year’s resolutions. What they resolve to quit doing. What they resolve to start doing. What they want other people to resolve to either quit doing or start doing.

And all of this, if it is to be an honest-to-goodness New Year’s resolution, must begin to happen as of 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Well, not this columnist. Not this year. Because I’ve resolved to give up making New Year’s resolutions. You know why?

They don’t work. You know it, and I know it. And we’ve all got countless New Year’s resolution failures to prove it.

Don’t believe me?

Remember last year’s resolution to eat healthier, lose weight and exercise more? Mm-hmm. How’d that work out for you? I’m willing to bet those new pants you bought aren’t in the closet because you needed something smaller.

Or how about the personal development resolution? Remember that one, less TV and more reading? Yeah, I know that one was hard to keep. Especially when “Dancing With the Stars” is on back-to-back nights, and you have to choose between that and “Idol” and “The Biggest Loser.”

How about this one: spending less and saving more? Or the quitting smoking one? Or more time in the garden and less on the computer? That’s right, my friend. Your carpal tunnel syndrome did not come from a trowel. Nope, it came from Facebook.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it — making a New Year’s resolution and failing to keep it? It should, because New Year’s resolutions, generally speaking, don’t work. In fact, a study that tracked 3,000 New Year’s resolvers found that only 12 percent of the people they studied achieved their goal by the end of the year.

In other words, 88 percent of New Year’s resolutions were failures.

That’s doesn’t mean if you make a resolution to change you won’t be successful. It just points out to me that maybe New Year’s Day isn’t the optimal choice for beginning a new lifestyle and ending a bad habit. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you’re at a New Year’s Eve party. You have a couple cocktails, some great food, even better music, all topped off by a champagne toast, and of course, a designated driver. You get the idea.

It’s midnight. You’re watching the ball drop in Times Square, you’re smooching your favorite girl (or guy), and Dick Clark is on the television wishing you a Happy New Year. Now, if your New Year’s resolution was to quit smoking, what are the odds you’ve had your last cigarette of the evening?

Or that you’ll be kicking off your New Year’s diet of low-fat cottage cheese and sliced cantaloupe when you finally roll out of bed at 2 the next afternoon? Immediately followed by the first three-mile run of your New Year’s fitness regimen in the balmy 28-degree weather we can usually expect on New Year’s Day?

The reason I think New Year’s resolutions usually come up short is that we resolve to make such difficult life changes at a very inopportune moment, and when we stumble coming out of the gate, we feel we’ve failed and quit trying.

The last time I made a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking was 10 years ago today. By 1 a.m. 10 years ago today I had failed.

Then one day about two weeks later, I smoked my last cigarette. I woke up the next day and knew in my heart I would never smoke again. And I still haven’t. It didn’t matter what day the calendar said it was; it only mattered that it was the right day for me.

My point? Go ahead and resolve to do something great for yourself this year. Resolve to get healthier. Or smarter. Or happier. Just maybe resolve not to try until Jan. 16.

May 2011 be the year all our resolutions are successful.