The Case Against New Year’s Resolutions
From Thanksgiving through Christmas we’re sucked into a whirlwind of gorging on humongous family feasts, blowing our budget on holiday gifts, and partaking in revelry at lots of holiday parties. Everything builds to the dramatic crescendo of New Year’s Eve, when we stay up later and party harder than any other night.
It’s no surprise that against this backdrop of massive overindulgence everyone is guilted into making a sweeping series of resolutions for better behavior in the new year. We’ll eat better, exercise more, watch our finances more carefully, etc.
I used to make a bunch of resolutions every year, and even write them down. When I invariably failed to achieve them all, I’d schedule quarterly reminders. Like that helped. And its no fun being confronted with your under-achieving self at such a festive time as New Year’s Eve.
The problem is that resolutions are extra credit, stuff above and beyond what we’re already doing. Nobody makes a resolution to stay at their current weight, for example, which is probably a challenge as it is. And because we’ve got a whole year to complete our resolutions, we tend to aim high. You’re not going to lose a pound or two, you’re going to drop five or ten. On the business front, you’re not going to survive or grow by 5%, you want to grow by 30%. So unfortunately, the whole resolution business is doomed to failure. It’s like betting against the house in Vegas: you may get lucky once in a while, but in the long run you have no chance. The only difference is that you have a lot of fun in Vegas.
And just in case you’re pretty happy with where you are personally, or with your business, there’s a non-stop torrent of self-help books, business blogs, and the like telling you what to do better. All excellent fodder for the Resolution Express.
Another problem with resolutions is that in today’s society, in order to lead a good, fulfilling life, the media gives us such an impossibly long and agonizingly detailed regimen to follow, that practically everyone walks around feeling some angst when they invariably come up short. Next year, we kid ourselves, we’ll pick up the slack.
Take health for example. When I go for my annual physical, my doctor asks me how many servings of fruits and vegetables I get a day. I tell him two, if I’m lucky. He counters that I should have five. I remind him there are only three meals in a day, but the math doesn’t throw him. “You really should have five”, he says with a straight face. “Try to snack on an apple or a bag of carrots.” Uh huh.
If you want to feel inadequate at event planning, subscribe to Jeff Hurt’s blog, MidCourse Corrections. Every time I look at my laptop it seems there’s a new post by Jeff, listing 10 trends in conference planning I need to know about, or 5 things speakers do wrong at meetings, or 7 reasons attendees are falling asleep at our programs. It’s all good stuff, and Jeff’s one of our industry’s great minds, but let me tell ya, you have no chance of implementing everything he recommends; it’s just too much. You’re lucky if you integrate 10% of his ideas, and the truth is he’d probably say that’s just fine. But of course you look at the 90% you can’t get to and see the flashing neon “Under-Achiever” sign in your mind.
Overwhelming isn’t it? With all these standards that we fall short of, it’s a miracle we actually make it through the year at all. But instead of giving ourselves a pat on the back for those things we did get right, we make a list of all the things we neglected to do and come up with resolutions for next year.
So here’s my suggestion. Get out of the resolutions racket altogether. Simply be happy you made it through another year. If you absolutely have to make a New Year’s resolution, it better be a real life-altering one, though I would argue that if you need to wait until New Year’s to put it on your to do list, you’re not off to a good start.
So, on the personal side, if you’re a heroin addict, getting yourself into detox is a worthy resolution. But if your goal is to cut back on those orders of Buffalo wings, don’t even bother. Just try to appreciate your friends and family as much as possible. And on the business front, just take super-good care of your best clients and employees; in the end you can’t go wrong by doing that.