December for all of us, marks the end of the year. 2021, has been eventful; filled with good and bad. The end of the year also brings in us a renewed sense of hope- that the coming year would be better in some way. However, during occasions like this, we may forget that time is an arbitrary concept that humans have put across. In other words, Time is an illusion. January 1st, 2022, does not hold any significance in the cosmic universe, just like Mondays or the start of the month. This does not, however, stop us from making the infamous 'New year resolution'. Dai, Milkman, and Riis (2014) believe that it is related to the "fresh start effect" that people have a placebo effect that a new day/week/year would imply a sense of change- A Temporal Landmark. We see this in many cultures too- particular days, places, or prayers are associated with the atonement of all sins and a 'new beginning'. This culturally sanctioned feeling has evolved into modern-day habit formation and task completion resolutions.
Several of us make resolutions to mark the beginning of a new change within ourselves. The ComRes Poll (2015) showed that these are related to physical exercise, eating habits, or stopping any harmful habits that we engage in. Making resolutions are relatively easy and in some cases needed. We do find the need to stop harmful habits and seek to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. The challenge appears to be in following through with these decisions that we make. According to a famous study done by Norcross and
Vangarelli, only 19% of the population are able to follow through with their resolutions for over 2 years- Which means that the majority of people are unable to stick to their resolutions, despite interpersonal and social support. In other words, despite a realistic necessity to change ourselves, there is a continued inability to follow through with it. This has been a significant focus within the field of Psychology- "why are people unable to change their habits even when they clearly want to do it?".
The problem, according to Chris McManus (2004) is that people misperceive their desires as their intentions- "I wish to become physically fit" vs "I will start exercising". This is also along the lines of Albert Ellis's theory, that people hold demands for themselves "I must do this" "I should do that" when there are only wishes or desires that they hold for themselves. How does this make a difference? Using such strong statements will put paramount pressure on us to do it every day, to be consistent, to be able to do it always. This pressure only makes a mountain out of a molehill. On the other hand, Acknowledging something like a wish or a desire includes admitting that the reality may be different and relieves pressure from us to follow through. This contradictorily increases our chances of doing it.
So then how do we get a new habit formed or follow through with our resolution without any pressure? Victor Frankl, an existential psychologist believes that people hyper-reflect on their tasks focusing on how much they have to do, feel overwhelmed, and end up not doing it. The solution then, in doing the task without focusing on the magnitude of it. Nike got their brand tag right in this case- we have to "Just do it". If you think you need to become more fit, just go for a walk or stretch and do it now. Do not plan too far ahead or wait for a fresh start. If you are tired, take that break now. The most important aspect is to not have thoughts that you do it tomorrow and every day after. Each day is different, and do what you can on that day. If you feel bad you have not done it all week, do it today. If you still are unable to, that's still okay, it is a wish, a desire not a law to be followed. Let's form resolutions realistically and follow them, whenever we can. The key is not consistency, but freedom from the pressure to be so.