With the inevitable end of 2019, I reflect on the resolutions I made eleven months ago. As all new year’s resolutions tend to be, mine were grand promises of living a healthier life, being better at managing my time, and making more time for the things I like. Well, as I sit writing this article to the deadline while recovering from a week-long flu, it’s safe to say that I failed to be consistent yet again. The start of a new year always brings about an air of hope and potential. It spurs people into making big proclamations of changing their lifestyle, only to despair at their failure come the next December.
There is a Filipino term that perfectly describes this yearly struggle. Ningas-kugon, literally translated as burning cogon grass, is an idiom that pertains to starting something with commitment and dedication, only to lose interest and give up a short time later. Indeed, it is difficult to get past the first month of the year without backing out on the promises we have made. Some studies have shown that 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by February, and only 8% are kept until the end of the year. Does this mean that setting new year’s resolutions is practically meaningless?
My answer is yes — and no. Setting resolutions on new year is a socially accepted tradition because the new year arbitrarily signifies a reset on the calendar. In reality, we can make resolutions any other time, but the symbolic clean slate that we get on the first of January is a good excuse to reevaluate our life choices in the past year. However, the type of resolutions we make largely determines the extent of our success. Most people make sweeping general declarations such as vowing to lose weight, to save more money, or to work harder. After a few months, or even a few days, we find that these resolutions are extremely difficult to accomplish, and so we give up and wait for the next year to roll around.
This type of attitude is not limited to new year’s resolutions. Many times, to our shame and regret, we find ourselves in the ningas-kugon habit. We revel in short-term satisfaction, and in these small moments of pleasure, we tend to forget the big picture. But perhaps we could use this mindset to our advantage. Instead of making one big laundry list of things we want to change once every year, we could set small, achievable goals regularly. One of the biggest reasons as to why new year’s resolutions fail is their infeasibility. We tend to go big and promise things that, deep down, we know we cannot achieve. Building up from small steps is one way to overcome this problem.
Twenty days until the end of a decade. I am in no way ready for what 2020 has in store, but my new year’s resolution is to change the way I make my new year’s resolutions.