According to the Nielsen Company, the top New Year’s resolutions for 2015 were: Stay fit and healthy (37%), lose weight (32%), enjoy life to the fullest (28%), spend less-save more (25%), and spend more time with family and friends (19%)[i]
The following year, 2016, they reported the top New Year’s resolutions were remarkably similar: stay fit and healthy (36%), lose weight (32%), spend less-save more (29%), enjoy life to the fullness (27%), and spend more time with family and friends (20%).[ii]
For 2017, Elliptical Review.com surveyed 2,000 people and found the top New Year’s resolutions were: diet or eat healthier (71%), exercise more (65%), lose weight (54%), save more-spend less (32%), learn a new skill or hobby (26%), quit smoking (21%), read more (17%), find another job (16%), drink less alcohol (15%), and spend more time with family and friends (13%).[iii]
For this year, Patch.com found the top New Year’s resolutions are: eat better (37%), exercise more (37%), spend less (37%), self-care (24%), read more (18%), learn a new skill (15%), get a new job (14%), make new friends (13%), get a new hobby (13%).[iv]
Resolutions reaching completion have much smaller percentages, historically. In 2013, Forbes reported only 8% of people successfully followed through with their New Year’s resolutions.[v] In 2015, US News reported, by February, 80% of New Year’s resolutions were doomed for failure.[vi]
As a therapist, I’m interested in why resolutions fail and there are many theories out there, from wishful thinking to unrealistic goals to the reality it’s easier to write a goal than accomplish one. I’m also interested in the goals themselves, as a sort of guilt-o-meter, or what people feel, year after year, is not quite right with their lives. These resolutions, to me, mine a depth of personal dissatisfaction that I, so often, hear reflected in my professional counseling.
These themes repeat, year after year. The perennial topper for resolutions, and guilt, involves staying fit/weight/exercise. Statistics back up this prominent placement. A 2016 study, referenced in an article from The Atlantic, pointed out “Less than 3 Percent of Americans Live a ‘Healthy Lifestyle.’”[vii] The definition of a healthy lifestyle by the study authors was: 1) two and a half hours per week of moderate to vigorous exercise; 2) a top 40 percent score on something called the “healthy eating index”, 3) body fat of under 20 percent for men and under 30 percent for women; and 4) not smoking.[viii] Over 97% of people in the study failed to meet all 4 criteria.
Financial fitness is another guilt-ridden favorite. This past August, according to MarketWatch.com, the Federal Reserve reported, “Americans had $1.021 trillion in outstanding revolving credit in June 2017. This beats the previous record in April 2008, when consumers had a collective $1.02 trillion in outstanding revolving credit.”[ix]
Another theme to make a resolutions list admits to social isolation and realizing the need to “spend more time with family and friends.” About a year ago, Forbes.com reported that “the General Social Survey found that the number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985. ‘Zero’ is the most common number of confidants, reported by almost a quarter of those surveyed. Likewise, the average number of people Americans feel they can talk to about ‘important matters’ has fallen from three to two.”[x]
Our resolutions may be unrealistic but only in achievement. Year after year we accurately identify where we’re falling short and promise to do better, at least, until February. We know what we need to do; we just can’t seem to do it.
Author, Will Craig, is quoted as saying, “The life you live is the outward expression of your inner journey.”[xi] Perhaps, this year, instead of trying to figure out food, or finances, or family and friends, you could resolve, first, to better understand yourself. The rest might follow.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.