Over the last week or so, most people I met had a ready conversation opening: ‘Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?’. Every time someone asked me that, irrespective of how much I may like them normally, I smiled and said: ‘Yes, one and it is a big one; my only New Year’s resolution is not to make any New Year’s resolutions.’ I know what you are thinking and yes, it is a bit direct and even rude; but facing the consequences of being direct can’t make me go with the crowd and discuss something I have very deep reservations about.
Before we go any further, I would like to make it absolutely clear that I genuinely and passionately believe that people can change; people can change their thinking patterns, their cherished beliefs and emotions, their behaviour, their lives and their destiny. What I am suspicious about is whether they can do it as a New Year’s resolution.
New Year’s resolutions and saving
At the beginning of each year, millions of people decide to do, or not do, certain things. These are too many and too varied to list them all, but the top ten New Year’s resolutions include: getting fit, losing weight, quit smoking and drinking, get out of debt and save, and get organised. Interestingly, some of these are inter-related; giving up smoking and drinking, for instance, can save you so much money that getting out of debt and saving more will happen almost automatically. Let’s face it, some of these are really, really bad habits.
I have never liked drinking (apart from the very occasional glass of red wine and this has to be really high quality to tempt me) and I can’t contemplate giving up chocolate even for Easter. But I did smoke, had coffee continuously and lived on readymade meals for several years. Today, I am a healthy long distance runner (no smoking, you understand), make my own coffee and cook for pleasure. How much I saved? Well…a lot! Doing the historical calculation is not hard but it can be time consuming; so I used the tool below to come up with a rough estimate…and it is…
Holy smoke! Had I continued to smoke over the last six years I would have spent about £11,000 ($17,769) on cigarettes. Assuming that I start smoking, buying coffees at the rate I used to and having takeaways (only two per week), in a year I should expect to spend £5,352 ($8,648)! Now, this is so much better used on something sensible rather than ruining my health.
Are some of the New Year’s resolutions people make sensible? Absolutely!
So where is the problem?
New Year’s resolutions and waste
The problem is that resolutions rarely work; we simply fail to keep to them. I know, I was very good at making them and giving up couple of weeks into January. There is research carried out by Richard Wiseman from Bristol University (in the UK) showing that 88% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions don’t see them through. In other words, making New Year’s resolutions is not always, in fact it seems that it is rarely, backed up by the single minded commitment necessary to get rid of bad habits and to establish new, healthier ones.
I find the first weeks of each year very hard to cope with. Why? Because when I went for my Monday salsa dancing session the studio was absolutely packed with new people. I looked around and knew that statistically only one out of ten is likely to be still there in March. When I went to the gym, I saw all these people flooding the machines (mostly sitting on them), walking slowly on the treadmills and clearly not enjoying it; and I knew that the attrition rate for new gym members, within six weeks of joining, is 80%!
But where it becomes really wasteful is that failing to change out habits (exercise) we forget to cancel the gym membership – in fact, the fitness industry is one of the few that profits from failure. Failing your fitness New Year’s resolution can cost you hundreds of pounds/dollars.
We all have habits that we want to break and/or acquire. But we don’t need to commit at particular time of the year; simply committing and persisting will do!
Resolutions without commitment are an empty phrase!
How good are you at keeping to New Year’s resolutions?