It’s Okay: To Make New Year’s Resolutions and Completely Ignore Them a Week Later
In It’s Okay, we defend our most embarrassing, unpopular opinions.
I have a ritual for every New Year’s Eve. Ever since I knew how to comprehend words, I find a mostly unblemished notebook, tear it up a bit, and turn it into my journal for the year. This ritual lasts exactly one week, after which the notebook lays forgotten in a dark corner of my desk, only to be desecrated again for the next new year.
The fantasy of leaving behind stacks of journals with scandalous details about a turbulent relationship with my one true love (Adam Driver) might be hard to let go of, but ideally, at some point, I’d realize that maybe journaling daily is not my strong suit and move on to another resolution. Perhaps working out or crocheting might be a better fit, I guess.
But no. Year after year, I embark upon the same quest with the same vigor and lose interest with the same vigor. In fact, as I file this, I’m destroying last years’ notebook in order to re-make it into this year’s project. And as I do that, I’ve figured out the obvious. The common ritual for New Year’s eve is that of failure. And my spicy take about that? I am so glad we’re failing.
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Failing as a concept, first, is a lot more interesting than the tepid resolutions we come up with year by year. I’d rather talk about failing than going to the GYM every day like a heathen. Imagine the sheer boredom of all of us losing weight, becoming better people, reading more books, cooking elaborate meals, perhaps some doing some crochet for garnish? Of course not. Because none of us are going to ever set a pace or a plan of action to achieve these goals, let alone accomplish such ambiguous, grand proclamations within a year. Exactly how does one become a better person in a year? Do you have a plan to save one drowning baby animal a day? Do you even know which animals these are? Do you know exactly where they’re drowning? Did you get a detailed map, bro? No? Guess you’re going to fail. Condolences, mate.
Soft bullying aside, researchers believe that the reason we’re messy with good habits is that we sort of dislike doing those good, healthy things, which means they don’t trigger our feel-good chemicals often enough, which means we’re less likely to do them again. When our brains don’t receive immediate rewards, it gets harder to keep habits going. The habits we choose to begin on a New Year are often more people-pleasing than they are for personal gain, more long-term than designed to get dopamine rushes. Of course, we’re going to suck at keeping up with habits that are both hard to do and bring us no personal joy beyond the distant thought of convincing people that we’re interesting, or evolving.
Now, I’m not going to 10-steps-to-fix-your-habits you because this is not a self-help guide. I’m only here to tell you that failure is amazing for people. (Source: is a person, has failed a lot, still doing fine). Our ritual of failing each year is pretty cool because it is a reminder of how corny we are as a species. It is a reminder to relax, to understand that we can never make anything big intentionally happen without seriously caring for it. It is a reminder to take things at our own pace and not take ourselves seriously enough to actually believe we’d be able to fulfill what we want just because it’s January 1. I mean, has your hangover even subsided yet?
Sometimes you wish there was a software program that would automatically load every habit you wanted and delete any you hated. But this is 2020, and climate change won’t let us get to 3020, and you cannot stand the idea of your skin-tight ridiculous gym gear and McDonald’s just seems divine. That’s going to be every year forever, but who said that’s a terrible thing? At some point, you’ll figure out that January 1 means nothing, find something that you really want to do at a date that isn’t a silly cultural self-help congregation, and you’ll do amazing. Januaries are for failing. Productivity is somewhere amidst the other eleven months. We’ll figure it out.