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Making New Year’s resolutions is a recipe for failure

Louise McEwanI hadn’t made New Year’s resolutions for a number of years, but I decided to try again in 2023. But a few weeks into the year reminded me of why I had quit making resolutions. My resolutions for 2023 fell within a matter of weeks.

My first resolution of 2023 was to avoid the chocolates and cookies left over from the holiday.

But the chocolates presented a problem. They were artisan truffles with a best-before date. There were two options: I could eat them or put them in the trash. Since I really dislike wasting food, the best tactic was to finish them as quickly as possible. Get it over with, so to speak, which I did with great satisfaction on Jan. 3, when I restricted myself to eating one at a time until the box was empty.

The cookies, conveniently frozen in neat layers, posed a continual challenge to my willpower. The freezer is a short distance from the TV viewing area in our basement. As any teen will tell you, there’s something irresistible about frozen cookies. And it’s indisputable that commercial breaks trigger a trip to the pantry or, in this case, the freezer. If I had continued to watch even one hour of television a night, I’d have decimated the cookie supply in a few more days. I resolved to bake less the following year.

New Year’s resolutions

Photo by Erol Ahmed

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Fortunately, I exercise faithfully, so there was no need for me to resolve to get fit, which is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Still, those sweets were definitely not good for my waistline, so I had to kick the workouts up a notch for the month.

Of course, I rationalized my chocolate and cookie consumption, and the need to bend my resolutions a bit. Dark chocolate is, after all, good for my memory, and the pistachios in the shortbread added a little protein, energy and anti-oxidants to my diet. Overall, though, I have to admit that my nutritional resolutions were a bust.

I did not do well on my other resolutions, either.

One of them caused my daughter to roll her eyes. When, on New Year’s Day, she asked if I’d made any resolutions, I responded, “Yes. I’m going to do more edifying reading.” I should have known from her reaction that I was being way too ambitious and ambiguous (not to mention pompous).

Like most people, I struggle to keep my resolutions. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We set ourselves up to fail with resolutions that are too broad, too sweeping, too vague. If we’re serious about achieving our goals, we need a better strategy than just making a pronouncement about our resolutions.

So I decided to start over. With the chocolates out of the way, I dealt with the cookies in a sensible manner. First, I did not watch television downstairs, thus removing the temptation to snatch frozen cookies during commercial breaks. Second, I treated the cookies as a dessert and not as a snack. (It is quite obscene to treat cookies like potato chips. Cookies deserve more respect.) Third, I enlisted the help of my husband and encouraged him to eat frozen cookies.

As to my grandiose goal to read more edifying material, I made a modest list, set aside a specific time and place to read, and got to it slowly.

Goodness, I’d just made a bunch more resolutions. I didn’t work.

This year I’ll take a cue from my son-in-law. He readily admits he doesn’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. He tries to live well, always, every day. Now there’s a resolution worth struggling to achieve.

Louise McEwan has degrees in English and Theology. She has a background in education and faith formation. 

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