Saying ‘No’ to New Year’s resolutions

The time has come, tradition says, for all of us to take stock of our lives and, having properly weighed the whole sorry mess, resolve to make much-needed improvements.

Or not.

Mostly not.

According to a survey conducted by the Saint Leo Polling Institute, scarcely more than one in four adults planned to make New Year’s resolutions — just 27 percent.

Victor Wallington hasn’t made a New Year’s resolution since the one he made about 20 years ago, when he successfully stopped smoking.
(Tom Jackson/Photos)

Maybe it had something to do with when the calls were made, the four days beginning Nov. 27 — the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Given Americans’ short attention spans, that is weeks before most of us would even think about whether we should commit to a new lifestyle regime.

After all, a week before the election, 10 percent of American adults hadn’t settled on their preferred choice for president. So, maybe the poll suffered from bad timing.

Or, maybe it was something else altogether. Maybe three out of four of us really are content to muddle along the way we did in 2016. Or, maybe we have been discouraged by previous attempts that unraveled before Super Bowl Sunday.

If the three-out-of-four statistic is a good one, then those in the business of slinging words have lately been targeting a jarringly slender audience. Who knew?

More than weight lost, gyms joined, self-improvement books bought, time better organized or investments made, what New Year’s resolutions inspire most are ‘listicles’ — that is, articles comprised of lists. These are actual headlines.

“Four steps to get over the New Year’s resolutions you didn’t accomplish this year.” (Verily)

“Five people getting even richer off your New Year’s resolutions.” (Marketwatch)

“Six New Year’s resolutions that will give your dating life a boost.” (Verily)

“Seven secrets of people who keep their New Year’s resolutions.” (Forbes)

“Eight ways to keep New Year’s resolutions about money.” (Forbes)

“10 must-know tips for achieving New Year’s resolutions.” (Huffington Post)

“10 New Year’s resolutions for your wallet.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“11 New Year’s resolutions for grown-a** ’90s kids.” (Bustle)

I could go on, but you get the idea.

In short, if you are the sort who thinks a blank calendar presents endless opportunity for real life-improving change, there is no shortage of advice about how you might, or should, go about the task.

The long and short of it, as laid out by Saint Leo University assistant professor of psychology’s Scot Hamilton, is to be realistic. The best way to do that, he says, is avoid staking your success to the end result.

“So the adage of just a little better each day, or a little less each day,” is the correct approach, Hamilton advises. It’s like the riddle: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Wendy and David Hevia don’t make New Year’s resolutions, instead they set goals for themselves that don’t coincide with the calendar.

Another Hamilton recommendation: One way to prolong keeping to a resolution is to allow yourself the occasional old-habit indulgence. Consider the good you’ve done to that point as equity in your project. If your discipline is generally good, you can backslide now and again “knowing that you’re not back to square one.”

It’s precisely that temptation to backslide, conjuring the specter of failure— not contentment with our lives as they are — most cite for not committing to a resolution.

Accordingly, “I don’t call them New Year’s resolutions,” says Wendy Hevia. “I call it a ‘reset.’” Along those lines, 50-somethings Wendy and husband David, who own and operate three Kiefer Jewelers shops (Lutz, Brandon and the original in Dade City), have pledged to adopt a new eating regime — specifically the Whole 30 Program — in time for New Year’s Day.

But, it’s not a resolution, David says. “We have goals, not resolutions.” Among them, get into better shape, work more efficiently, and, to avoid the stress of being stretched too thin, learn — as billionaires do — to say “No.”

I know what you’re thinking. But, lest you waddle down that if-it-looks-like-a-duck-and-quacks-like-a-duck New Year’s resolution path, know this: “We are not committed to getting to all of this in 2017,” David says, “or beginning right with the start of the new year.”

Except for that new eating plan, anyway. So, yeah.

Around the corner up Collier Parkway, 61-year-old Victor Wallington is also skipping the New Year’s resolution game. Not because he isn’t a believer. One of his most cherished life changes — quitting smoking — began on a New Year’s Day about 20 years ago.

Now the retired Detroit emergency technician, who defines effervescence, lives in Wesley Chapel, works in the cart barn at the recently reopened Plantation Palms Golf Course, and counts his blessings.

Declaring he’s “had an absolutely wonderful life — thank God for that,” Wallington is committed only to “take each day as it comes.”

For the skeptics forming a super-majority, that’s not just one way to have a successful New Year’s resolution. It might be the best.

Tom Jackson, a resident of New Tampa, is interested in your ideas. To reach him, email .

Published January 4, 2017

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