Making New Year's resolutions is tricky in the first place. Do you start out small with something you know you can achieve consistently without really pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, or do you go all out and hope that willpower alone will drag you through? In other words, do you make a resolution to catch the train to work a little more instead of driving, or do you make a resolution to take a holiday every month and pack on 20 kilos of muscle at the gym before the next year is out?
FiveThirtyEight's Datalab says that a Marist college poll of over 1000 US respondents showed almost half will make a New Year's resolution in the next couple of days — but half of those people won't be keeping those resolutions by the midpoint of 2017.
It's old data, but a 2002 study showed that while 29 per cent of resolutions didn't last two weeks and 36 per cent were done within a month, a full 54 per cent of people surveyed had given up their moonshot attempts within six months. We can reasonably assume that the earlier drop-outs had made resolutions that were straight-up unfeasible to keep, but any resolution doesn't have a 50 per cent chance of lasting at least until July.
FiveThirtyEight also shows the classic example — Google searches for 'gym' spike dramatically in January, and slowly tail off throughout the year to December. That's not surprising, since 'lose weight', 'improve health' and 'exercise more' are by far the most common New Year's resolutions in its data, but all of those require consistent long-term effort — and physical effort, moreover — to achieve.
Interestingly, despite less than half of the Marist survey respondents keeping their resolutions through the year, roughly the same percentage of respondents say they'll make a New Year's resolution each year the survey has been conducted. So either we don't learn from our mistakes, or we're blissfully ignorant of the fact that we're all making outlandish claims about what we'll achieve in the next 12 months.
What's the takeaway from this? If you're going to be making a New Year's resolution, make one that you can reasonably achieve, and consistently achieve throughout the year. And don't be bullied into making one in the first place — especially since less than half of your friends will. [FiveThirtyEight]