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Why Your New Year's Resolutions Suck

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | December 31, 2014 |


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To do lists are the most important thing in the universe. They are the only way that anything gets done. If it’s not on a list, it will never get done in my world. Writing this? On the weekly to do list. I make these things so elaborate that I’ve got a single word document on my Desktop, each week gets a new page tacked on to the top. It’s currently north of a hundred pages. There’s a template for each weekly list. A template.

So you’d probably predict that New Year’s Resolutions are my sort of thing. You’re wrong. Probably about a lot of other things. Definitely your hair. Most of your clothes. Your taste in movies and music. But also about New Year’s Resolutions.

See, the problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they’re not to do lists, they’re just lists of things that you wish you would have achieved. Here’s the thing: you won’t. And I think you know it. The typical set of resolutions is something like lose ten pounds, write a novel, and read a bunch of books that you hate but think will be good for you like vegetables. Oh and it probably says to eat more vegetables.

The reason these things don’t work is that they are goals not action items, just to go full business buzz word on you. Goals don’t happen, actions happen. A to do list composed of individually definable things to get done? That can get done. Resolutions are almost inevitably lists of endpoints without the paths to get to them. So you look at that list, even if it makes it to the second week of January, and there’s not anything actually on it for you to do. “Lose ten pounds” is not something you do. There’s no first step, no action. Run a mile every Monday? Getting better because it’s getting closer to something you can do, but it’s not quite there. You need “run a mile today” on a list that you see every Monday. Why the hairsplitting? Because the former can’t be checked off for 52 weeks, the latter gets crossed off the list.

To do lists work because of the glorious feeling of crossing something off one of them. A list of resolutions can’t be crossed off, can’t be started on, can only sit and rot and then stare you in the face at the end of the year, a lasting monument to your incapacity to accomplish anything you set out to do. And that’s no way to live.

Your resolutions for this New Year? Make a year’s worth of weekly to do lists that walk the steps to get you to them. Or light the resolutions on fire, they’ll be as effective, plus, fire pretty.


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