In 2017, I lost 20 pounds and read through about 75 percent of the Bible. But I broke my New Year’s resolution not long after the beginning of the year.
Every new year, Americans decide to lose weight, get closer to old friends, repair relationships with family members, and achieve something better than they did the year before. So, why do so many of us fail?
As a Christian, I would point to original sin, but without getting too cosmic, I think the real culprit is a fascination with numbers. The calendar says it’s 2018, that means I can do something different — be a new person! In reality, change is hard.
Resolutions can come true, however. The ancient Greek philosophers had some timeless wisdom on how human beings can achieve true change — through habits. Habits form character, something the ancient Greeks and Romans termed “virtue.”
Changing habits has nothing to do with the new year and everything to do with discipline and will power. In the 21st century, technology can actually help a great deal with these things.
To lose weight, I use MyFitnessPal, an app that allows you to catalogue what you eat (how many calories you consume) and how much you exercise (how many calories you burn). The app has a huge database with the nutrition information on all sorts of foods, and it can scan a barcode for any food — or drink! — to tell you exactly what’s in it.
Other apps (like Sleep Cycle) help with better sleep. Calendar alerts can remind you when to go to bed and when to call your friend far away. Naturally, these require foresight and willpower, but technology can help just as much as it can hurt.
Getting your body into daily rhythms — eating smaller or more nutritious food, working out, even choosing specific times of day to read or pray — proves tremendously helpful in achieving long-term results.
The most important feature of a good New Year’s resolution is humility, however. You will almost certainly fail, if not on January 2, then on April 15. When you fail, do not beat yourself up.
Guilt is a good emotion, but only so long as it drives us to make changes. Never wallow in it. When you slip up and eat that cookie at the office, pushing your calorie count just a bit higher than your goal, just balance it out. Move yourself slowly in the right direction, and don’t lose heart after a few halting steps.
As a Christian, I see the struggle to redeem ourselves as proof that we need a Redeemer. When I struggle with a sin, I try to repent and just turn to the good things God wants me to do. If you repent, God will forgive, and you can start afresh.
This principle holds true in secular life as well, and it is important for us to forgive ourselves when we slip up. Whatever you believe, do not lose heart when you fall short of your New Year’s resolution. Humbly accept that you failed, and use the opportunity to renew your drive and desire to succeed.
The calendar isn’t the real reason you can change your life, and if the new virtue really starts on April 16, that doesn’t make it any less important.