After decades of failed New Year’s resolutions, is it mad to keep making them?

A week in and my resolve is already failing – but I still think it's worth committing to change

Are New Year's resolutions worth making, even if you know you are destined to fail? Unsplash
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Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Selina Denman: “I’ve been making the same New Year’s resolutions for more than a decade, but this is definitely going to be the year I lose 10kg, reduce the amount of meat I eat, make more time for friends and loved ones, climb another mountain, practise regular self care, learn a new skill, etc, etc.”

Cliched as it may be, I’m a sucker for a bit of “new year, new me” thinking. Come January 2 (not January 1, that’s just too much pressure), I’m filled with a renewed sense of optimism and enthusiasm. Even though, on an intellectual level, I know it’s no different than any other day, it still feels like a blank slate — a real opportunity to implement lasting change.

I tend to overcompensate, despite the urging of most self-help professionals. My resolutions are ambitious, often verging on the impossible, and there are lots of them. Why settle for two or three small, manageable changes when you can go for 10 largely unattainable ones? Go big or go bust, I say.

And bust is normally where I find myself around mid February. After the shine of Veganuary has worn off, the demands of work and commuting start eating into all that planned gym time, and my vow to manage my Starbucks intake drowns in a vat of mocha frappucinos, I find myself pretty close to square one.

Still, you can’t blame a girl for trying. And despite my years of failure, I continue to think it is worth making those resolutions. It forces me, on an annual basis, to take stock of where I am and where I’d like to be. It encourages me to strive for change. And while I rarely actually see any of my resolutions through, sometimes incremental progress is made in the process.

As a lifelong nicotine addict, quitting smoking has been on my list of resolutions since I was in my early twenties. Most years, I don’t make it past the end of January 2, but a couple of times, I have managed to stop for more prolonged periods — once for six years and once for two. And while I invariably found myself back on the tar-laden bandwagon, eight years of not smoking is better than none. I will take that as a success.

And so, once again, I’ve kicked off the year with Veganuary, hoping it will encourage me to eat much less meat long after the end of the month has come and gone. Less than a week in and I’m already considering massaging the parameters to allow myself to consume a bit of cheese. Ho-hum.

I’ve bought a monthly package at my local dance studio, hoping the upfront investment will force me to do at least three classes a week. Dh500-plus down the drain, no doubt.

I’ve started logging calories and have dusted off my gratitude journal and put it on the bedside table, in the hope that I may have some inspiring thoughts to jot down at some point.

Einstein might call it insanity, but I like to think of my commitment to making resolutions as a sign of my eternal optimism. There’s always room for self-improvement, even if 20-plus years of past experience might suggest otherwise.

Updated: January 06, 2023, 6:02 PM