It’s become popular for people to slam the ineffectiveness of New Year’s resolutions, especially when they involve losing weight. Social media is inundated with memes comparing the empty gyms of December to the crowded gyms of January. It’s also replete with old jokes on how to tell if you need to make a resolution to lose weight in the new year. (Answer: when you step on the scale and it says, “One at a time, please!”)
What does it say about us that we’re so quick to ridicule this annual ritual of self-examination? True, most studies show that almost half of Americans make resolutions yet only 8% actually achieve them (according to research by the University of Scranton). Even so, I’ve never understood why the 92% failure rate got all the press. While it’s a large number, what about all those people who made it over the wall and achieved their goals as a result of those resolutions? To put that number in perspective, Apple had less than 8% of the personal computer market as of April 2016, yet we see their computers everywhere!
An 8% success rate is rather large considering most resolutions involve the very things we have a history of failing to achieve!
I liken it to the old story where an old man notices a boy walking along the beach after a storm. Every few steps, the boy picks up one of the starfish that has washed in with the tide and throws it back into the water. Noticing that the beach is littered with thousands upon thousands of these starfish, the old man asks the boy why he bothers.
“These starfish will dry out in the sun and die on the beach if they can’t get get back to the water,” the boy replies.
“There are far too many starfish out here to save them all,” the man explains. “I’m afraid you won’t be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy picks up another starfish and flings it into the water. “It will make a difference to that one!”
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a fan of the January crowds at the gym. Every time I see prospective members touring the exercise equipment, I secretly hope they’ll find something wrong and join the gym down the street. That’s only because I’m weak, however; I still want them to join somewhere, just not “here.” It’s simply the result of my crippling insecurity and low-rent narcissism. I believe everyone is looking at me and judging as I struggle through 15 minutes on that cursed elliptical machine. If I can hear my breath over the squeaking of the machine (have I mentioned I’m morbidly obese?) and the blaring of Coldplay in my headphones, what must the others be hearing?
However, I root for anyone willing to fight the good fight on Jan. 2. Being snarky about someone’s resolutions to change for the better doesn’t elevate anyone or anything. Cloaking cynicism as commentary on the fleeting resolve of people trying to do things they’ve been unable to do before is just sad. I prefer to look at January dieters in light of a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I applaud those of us who got washed ashore but aren’t waiting for someone to throw them back, no matter how much it inconveniences me. (And if I have to wait for my favorite machine in the far corner, it really does.)
Good luck on your resolutions, fellow starfish, and may you be among the 8% who find their way back to the water in 2017.