New Year's Resolutions for People Who Don't Make New Year's Resolutions

Can we just resolve not to resolve?

(Photo: Francis Miller/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Dec 31, 2013· 2 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Little secret: I’m not actually writing this on New Year’s Eve. On the actual New Year’s Eve—as in tonight—I’ll likely be doing what I’ve done the past few years, which is to get a little tipsy on champagne and curl up on the couch with my boyfriend and our dog (shout out to Bear!) to catch up on our queue of Pringles-chip-variety reality TV shows we’ve missed (no one can watch just one!). I’m talking shows like "Alaska: The Last Frontier"—nothing like a good dose of schadenfreude to ring in the New Year, cozy in your living room watching someone ice fish at -10˚F—and “Sister Wives.” (Yeah, I’ve read all about the Browns’ victory in that federal court case—fascinating!)

Point is, we work ahead a bit here at TakePart to cover the holiday spread, and my editor asked me to write something for New Year’s Eve, say, on resolutions related to food. Without thinking, I said, “Sure.” Problem is, I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution in my life.

So I did what most any writer does nowadays looking for inspiration: I trolled the web, wondering, What are these New Year’s resolutions that people speak of? Losing weight, spending less, volunteering more...

Apparently experts suggest specific goals, as opposed to blanket generalities—at least if you want to see your resolution stick past MLK Day. Just 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, according to one study, while 38 percent are like me in that they never make resolutions. The percentage who achieve their resolution? Just 8… as in less than one out of 10.

That percentage, presumably, is taken from the less than half of people who bother to make resolutions in the first place, so when we’re talking about the success of the whole New Year’s resolution racket, we’re talking about 3.6 percent of the American population who realize some benefit from the whole thing.

Let’s keep in mind that Congress has an approval rating that's just shy of 10 percent. In other words, about three times more Americans believe Congress is doing an OK job than succeed in their New Year’s resolutions. Hardly inspiring.

That this column is supposed to be about food doesn’t help matters any, because when you’re talking about food and New Year’s resolutions in the U.S., you’re generally talking about eating less food, or eating food that’s better for you—things most people are aware they should be doing in the first place.

These are the two food-related New Year’s resolutions I eked out: to break out of our repertoire and eat at one new local restaurant a month (because I saw this thing that local restaurants recirculate almost 80 percent of their revenue through the local community versus just 30 percent for national chains) and to eat more nuts. Did you see that article in The New York Times? Nuts are, like, amazing.

Coming up with these measly two, not-at-all-newsworthy resolutions was like squeezing blood from a stone. I paced; I played 15 levels of "Angry Birds" (re: the new Birdday update—someone please tell me how to get three stars on the last level); I made lasagna and drank a couple glasses of wine. I whined to my boyfriend.

Why was this so hard?

Then it hit me: I like who I am. I’m proud of my take-my-own-bags-to-the-grocery-store, shop-my-farmers-market-in-season, heritage-turkey-buying, sign-my-TakePart-petitions, vote-my-conscience, eat-less-meat, drive-as-little-as-possible, yet totally imperfect self.

Does that seem arrogant? Does it seem arrogant to suggest that if you think about how you live in the world and try to make it a better place, even if those gestures sometimes feel insignificant, you shouldn’t at least take a moment to celebrate who you are? Like maybe just one day a year?

So to all you do-gooders out there, this toast’s for you. Resolve to keep doing what you’re doing. And have a very happy, do-gooder-y New Year.