Happy 2015: Defending Resolutions

New-Year-resolutions-30000Have you noticed that New Year’s resolutions are getting a REALLY bad rap?

Around this time last year, many media outlets reported on findings from University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology that only 8% of Americans achieve their resolutions.

Time.com contributor Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, a couple of days ago, while referencing the Journal of Clinical Psychology stats, went so far as to claim that New Year’s resolutions are actually bad for you!

When you tie your behavioral change to a specific date, you rob yourself of an opportunity to fail and recover, to “fail better.” If you believe that you can only change on the New Year — the inherent message of New Year’s resolutions — you will have to wait a whole year before you get another shot…

She also quotes Steve Salerno, author of Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless:

My concern is that the resolution takes the place of the action, as is also true with so many millions of people who sign up for an endless succession of self-help programs: They think some magic words, some avowed promise, will magically transform their lives, when we all know that the real transformational work is tough, grueling, and usually involves sacrifice and unpleasant choices.”

I’m sorry, I just don’t see the making of resolutions and “real transformational work” as being mutually exclusive, and yet Salerno and Lamb-Shapiro base their entire argument on this being the case.

Read carefully, it seems to me that Lamb-Shapiro’s piece doesn’t actually support the sensationalist claim that resolutions are bad for you, as much as it points out that it’s how you go after trying to achieve your resolutions that matters the most.

It’s self-serving — they both have written books criticizing the so-called self-help industry — and deeply cynical.

Ironically, Lamb-Shapiro concludes, sounding just like the self-help gurus she holds in such contempt:

Here’s a better idea. Instead of listing an abstract goal like “lose weight,” think of specific small steps you can take, every day, that will have the same result. If you fail at any of these small steps — which you inevitably will — brush it off, and realize that failure and recovery is part of any process.

I believe that it is an inherently good thing that people live intentionally, set goals, and work toward personal growth, and it’s even a deeply optimistic thing that people continue to make resolutions despite an 8% success rate.

So, great ideas, Jessica! Very helpful! Thanks for giving me a better chance of achieving my New Year’s resolutions!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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