The Trick to Resolutions: Don't Aim Too High

Such goals are only meant to 'get you started,' says a social psychologist
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 31, 2023 8:15 AM CST
The Trick to Resolutions: Don't Aim Too High
2024 glasses are displayed ahead of New Year's Eve in Times Square, Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, in New York.   (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

It's an annual end-of-year exercise in futility for many. But a clean slate awaits at the stroke of midnight for the next round of resolutions. From the first spray of fireworks to the closing chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" 366 days into the future—2024 is a leap year—it could be the year for finally achieving long-elusive goals, fulfilling aspirations and being resolute on all those New Year resolutions. "As humans, we are creatures that aspire," Omid Fotuhi, a social psychologist who is a motivation and performance researcher, tells the AP. "There's something very liberating about a fresh start. Imagine starting on a blank canvas. Anything is possible."

If so, could this be the year to run a marathon, vanquish (or make peace with) old foes such as the bathroom scale and a thickening waist? Maybe learn Mandarin or register to vote, and actually vote? So many questions, and so much time to delay. Tim Williams used to issue himself a panoply of resolutions: lose weight, drink less, exercise more, and yada yada. Now, he doesn't bother. "In the past, I would make them, and I would fail or give up on them or whatever," said Williams, a part-time resident of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Josh Moore, another Fort Lauderdale resident, sees things in line with the natural philosopher Sir Isaac Newton and physics. For every action there must be an equal reaction.

"If you do something like eat a bunch of candy or a bunch of desserts at a holiday party, go run," he said (interrupting his own jog to talk). "Maybe you went out drinking too much and you might have a hangover. But then next day when you're feeling better, go to the gym." Too many people are too soft on themselves, he posited. "You've got to actually hold yourself accountable." Resolutions don't have to be big, grandiose, or overly ambitious, Fotuhi said. Even if they are, he said value should not exclusively be derived from the achievement but also be measured by what you become by trying to better yourself. "Goals are only there to serve a function to get you started," he said. "If they don't do that, then maybe that's not the appropriate goal for you." As an example, he advises starting with a 5K instead of a 10K.

(More New Year's resolutions stories.)

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