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The Great Debates: Empty Resolutions?

Is this something worth your time on New Year’s Eve?/ Destiny Kaus
Is this something worth your time on New Year’s Eve?/ Destiny Kaus

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PRO

John Loeppky – Contributor

What better way to start off the year positively than to make a New Year’s resolution? We’ve all got to start somewhere and, in a world where we spend our days whittling away our life expectancy while watching the latest BuzzFeed video and chortling at our high schools friends’ escapades, surely we can take just a few moments out of our lives and make a pact with ourselves to make our personal sphere a little bit better.

Now there are many a dissenter among us, declaring that to make a New Year’s resolution is as pointless as hoping that your complex McDonalds order will be produced correctly, but those who label resolutions as useless are the very same that lack the conviction to follow through on their promises. These individuals point to the fact that many a person attends the gym in January but, by April, only a few solemn souls remain. Well, one day of betterment is better than none, is it not?

To use an analogy, imagine the world as an extremely large bucket complete with 7.1250-ish billion crabs. Now if we presume that 2 billion of those crabs make New Year’s resolutions and put them into a slightly smaller bucket — because, let’s face it, some are just looking to survive — then we have a completely made up amount of the people we are currently debating about. Now, visualize ninety per cent of that bucket straining to climb out of the bucket, to reach new heights, to go somewhere their little crab legs have never gone before. However, in this little scenario I’ve concocted, the other ten percent reach up and latch onto those trying to make better lives for themselves. And thus, with that ninety per cent is reduced to two per cent (a very real statistic, I assure you). Very few of us are ever seen to be succeeding.

And there’s the rub: we as a society have convinced ourselves that making a goal for self improvement (all a resolution really is) is somehow pointless. But, I’m here to tell you it isn’t. Even if you set a goal of going to the gym every week for the semester, and you only go for half of the weeks you planned to, that is still a success! In attempting to go to the gym more times than you did last semester, you have (hopefully) made yourself feel that much better. Unless your resolution is to pick a good resolution in 2015, and you act upon said goal, then you sir or madam are a success story.

“Even if you make a resolution and then break it the next day, you made an effort. You tried. Something you would not have done, not even thought about doing, had it not been for this societal tradition that we feel so compelled to participate in.”

Many people, who society initially deemed to have failed, set goals to achieve their dreams. They may be small — incremental, even — but these targets are essential to one’s progress. In making a resolution, you are making a promise to yourself, not a promise that you will absolutely complete the task you have set for yourself, just that you will attempt to do so.

At the end of the day, New Year’s resolutions should not be reasons for ridicule. In deciding to make such a decision you should not be subjecting yourself to a world that plays the eternal pessimist with your life-goals. Even if you make a resolution and then break it the next day, you made an effort. You tried. Something you would not have done, not even thought about doing, had it not been for this societal tradition that we feel so compelled to participate in. That attempt, in and of itself, is an achievement, no matter what others say.

 

CONTRA

Taras Matkovsky – Op-Ed Editor

Out with the old, in with the new: this is the motto of the New Year, alongside ‘more champagne, please.’ When the clock strikes the first second of a new year, many things change, the first being our calendars. Yet for some people, there is also the belief that they, too, will change, or rather that they should make an attempt to do so. I am, of course, speaking about New Year’s resolutions. By now, the practice of resolving to do better around this time has become a North American tradition; I can’t really say this about the rest of the world. I personally have made a resolution to go to the gym last year, and I more or less kept it throughout the first nine months of 2014. Despite this, I do not believe that a New Year’s resolution is worth your time.

In general, people should not be slaves to traditions; this is especially true for ‘popular’ ones such as this one. The need to follow a tradition is smaller than the need to respond to actual existing problems. What makes this even truer with respect to New Year’s resolutions is that we end up placing too much significance on this date. Personal problems can occur at any day of the year and it is best to act now, rather than wait. This is why it should not fall upon New Year’s to make a decision to be a better person; it should be done the moment one senses something is wrong with their lives.

Another thing worth considering is that to keep making New Year’s resolutions is to enter a self-reinforcing cycle of pain. Marti Gonzales, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, found in a study that 80 percent of people who made resolutions forgot them later. This factoid is important, not because it proves resolutions can’t work, but because it shows lots of people engage in a gesture that turns out to be meaningless. When they recall these resolutions, it won’t inspire them to try harder but instead make them feel ashamed that they failed to achieve their goal. In this case, there is no reward for trying. No matter how you try to hide it, failing to live up to your word is personally humiliating; I speak from experience.

“If you really want to be a ‘new you’, then there’s no better time than the present to start doing so. Don’t let a calendar and social convention dictate to you when you can start turning your life around.”

However, it could be argued that New Year’s is a perfect morale booster for this exact course of action. The thought of seeing another year slip by should, according to this viewpoint, galvanize us into doing everything we can to mend our ways before it is too late. This view is actually harmful to the process of self-improvement because it places the viability of sustaining this process on the flows of time. You do not need to wait until New Year’s to renew a vow to better yourself. If for some reason you find it hard to do so, go talk to a friend. Better yet, if you know someone who is having problems, go to them and try to help him/her figure them out. Don’t cast your friends, or indeed yourself, into the swirling sands of time before solving your problems. Carpe diem: seize the day!

If you really want to be a ‘new you’, then there’s no better time than the present to start doing so. Don’t let a calendar and social convention dictate to you when you can start turning your life around. More importantly, don’t use the New Year as a crutch to keep existing bad habits alive longer than they should be. You only have a limited amount of time to turn yourself around; make the most of it as soon as you can.

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