New Year Resolutions are really not made to be broken. But here are the Top 10 that have haunted our lists for many years.
1. Lose Weight and Get Fit
It’s one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. After a season of way too many cookies, candies and holiday parties, it’s only natural that a vow to lose weight and get fit would follow.
Each January, fitness clubs offer deals and promotions to those who want to make good on their resolutions. To those who have been at the gym for the other 11 months of the year, the crowded classes and treadmill lines make the new year a dreaded time.
Luckily for gym rats, research says that 60% of gym memberships go unused and attendance is usually back to normal by mid-February.
Why is that? Simple: people are lazy.
2. Quit Smoking
So you want to quit smoking? You should. It yellows your teeth, infiltrates all your clothing, irritates your significant other and charms only those in an ever dwindling crowd of fellow smokers. So what better time than now?
Good luck. Only an estimated 15% of people who try to quit manage to stay cigarette-free six months later. True, there are a host of products to help wean you off your nicotine addiction – patches, chewing gum, “e-cigarettes” and even “snus,” a Scandinavian habit of wedging a tobacco capsule up against one’s gum.
The last two, though, have fallen afoul of the FDA; some say the agency overly frets about the harmful effects of these products, which, after all, can stop people from indulging in far more carcinogenic cigarettes. In any event, smokers, you have your work cut out for you. Think it over during your next cigarette break.
3. Learn Something New
You’ve been meaning to learn French. You’d love to play the piano. How great would it be to really know how to cook?
You’ll read Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and, man, you’ll master it. You can even work on your French at the same time! Resolving to learn something new is exciting: the world is full of fascinating facts, skills and talents. And the process of discovering them, not just the end result, is enjoyable and rewarding.
At least, for a while. Soon you remember there’s a reason you haven’t learned all this yet. French is too hard to pronounce. Piano takes too much practice. Ordering out is just so much easier than cooking. You’ll do it … when you have more time!
4. Eat Healthier and Diet
During the holidays, everything we consume is pretty much awful for us: eggnog, fudge, chips and dip, cheese balls. 2017 will be different. Gone are the days of nachos and chicken wings at happy hour and belt-busting brunches on Sundays.
It’s time to eat healthy. We promise to swap eggs and bagels for granola and oatmeal breakfasts; eat lean, protein-rich salads (nonfat dressing on the side, please) and fruit for lunch; cook fish and brown rice for dinner and serve it up with a side of spinach.
It all sounds so good and possible on January 2.
The problem is that most people take this resolution too far by forcing themselves onto restricting diets they can’t possibly keep. As the saying goes, try everything in moderation, including moderation. Eat healthy, but allow yourself a treat now and then. Otherwise, it won’t be long before this resolution falls by the weight-side.
5. Get Out of Debt and Save Money
After a particularly trying financial year (and the always budget-unfriendly month of December), consumers might call for a halt to spending and vow to manage their debt more effectively.
With unemployment still high, the sad fact about this 2017 resolution is that many people will have difficulty accomplishing it, and not through any fault of their own.
Financial planners advise making specific budget-friendly rules, rather than pronouncing overarching and often unattainable goals. Only allow yourself to eat one dinner out a week. Take a sack lunch to work most days. Vow to shop around for a new auto, home insurance and credit cards with lower interest rates and free balance transfers.
Can you spare an extra $50 or even $20 a month to put toward paying off your student loans?
If you’re lucky enough to make it out of debt, the goal then becomes tucking some money away for retirement or a rainy day. Look into maxing out your 401(k) at work. And, while flipping through your favorite magazine, repeat the mantra, “I will save money this year, I will save money this year.”
But, ooh, look at that new Marc Jacobs bag, and I really could use a Kindle for all those subway commutes. Oh, and what about a new wardrobe for spring? Hmm. Maybe I’ll save money next year.
6. Spend More Time with Family
Everyone’s busy these days, it’s true. But blood is thicker than water, and the beginning of the year is an ideal time to reconnect with family that you haven’t seen in a while.
Great idea, right?
Then February arrives, reality sets in, and you realize that the reason you didn’t see cousin Jim more often is because he really isn’t that interesting at all. Or that plan to spend more time with the kids?
Well, it turns out that work doesn’t magically disappear with the dawning of a new year, and you’re at the office more than ever. It’s a hard promise to keep – no matter how sincere the desire.
7. Travel to New Places
A new year and a new world of opportunities to explore, and places, too. Travel of some sort is on almost everyone’s agenda, and some of the first things we tend to think of in a new year are those exotic destinations we’d hope to seek out.
Take that road trip to rugged Nova Scotia, ride a hot-air balloon over the strange terrain of Cappadocia, go on your first ocean cruise. Or don’t. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, budgets are tight and staycations are in.
Besides, not traveling spares all the headache of planning, applying perhaps for a visa (yes, Americans have to do that too sometimes), fretting over getting scammed in some foreign locale and getting someone to tend to your plants and puppy. There’s a reason why travel and travail sound so similar.
8. Be Less Stressed
It’s not a bad idea to resolve to be less stressed. Even without the extra craziness presented by the holidays, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by work and family obligations, to get carried away by an existential crisis or to create a crisis out of wondering whether or not you bought the right color handbag (worse still: experiencing all crises at once).
Less stress can make you healthier and happier, so in the coming year you’ll light soothing candles and take more bubble baths. You’ll quit searching for more things to worry about and find your zen instead.
Unfortunately, stressing less is likely to be the very first resolution you’ll break.
On January 1, your train of thought may very well have gone something like this: Wow, it’s 2017. Yikes, it’s 2017! How did it get to be 2017 already? Where did the past year ago? Where have the past 10 years gone? What am I doing with my life? How am I going to manage going to the gym regularly?
I know I said I’d eat healthier, but I really want that bagel. I think I’m going to eat that bagel. But, oh, if I eat that bagel …
It may be a new year, but there are still old problems in the world. To start out on the right foot, you may resolve to lend a helping hand. You can help build a house, care for an animal, distribute food to the hungry, tutor a student.
Volunteering could be the resolution that keeps on giving, to yourself and to others.
But even the most compassionate among us can fall back on our commitments. Finding time all too often proves harder than finding money, and many would-be volunteers will probably end up writing checks instead. You might want to rephrase this resolution to include the broader “help others.”
10. Drink Less Alcohol
After the morning of January 1st, it’s not surprising you probably wish you drank less. The question is whether that resolve will last for the other 364 days of the year.
Drinking less is undoubtedly good for you: it’s better for your health, your wallet and probably your reputation. Then why do we keep on boozing?
But we love those ancients who proclaimed “In vino veritas”… “In wine (and whiskey, vodka, gin and beer), there is truth.” They said it, not us.