Why We Fail Our New Years Resolutions

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Business 101: under promise and over deliver.  The art of the deal is about setting consumers exceptions; offer them silver, but satisfy them with gold.  In doing so, the savvy salesman will harness that elusive repeat business and make themselves look like a seasoned pro to the client.  Failed ventures end oppositely, where too much is promised and too little, delivered.  If a businessman’s track record reflects the latter, he’ll probably be submitting his unemployment papers soon, which is why the commission career that is sales really isn’t meant for everyone.


In its most basic form, sales is the art of making promises.  While only a small segment of the work force will make their livelihood delivering on their word, we ALL make promises to each other but even more importantly, we make them to ourselves.  Perhaps the most prominent day of pandemic promising is January 1st.  As the Earth completes a full orbit around the sun, mankind restarts the calendar and prepares for another 365, but not before vowing to make a  change or two in their day to day life.


“December 31st will mark my last cigarette.  January 1st will christen my new gym regiment.  This year I will make the switch to vegetarianism.  2017 will be spent with family and 2016’s Netflix obsession will be replaced with bird watching.”  Whatever your plans for 2017 are, many entertain their lonings to make some major developments in their life via a New Years Resolution.  As the sun sets on December 31st, we lay our vices to rest and lace up our boots as we prepare to battle against our urges for an entire calendar year.  Unfortunately, if resolutions are anything like business-level deal making, our self-made promises would land us on the unemployment line right alongside the traveling salesmen.  Why? Because the promises we make to ourselves are the ones we are most likely to succumb to.

If you’re like me, your success rate when it comes to fulfilling your resolutions are about as good as Shaqs free throw percentage.  Like a pitchers batting average, we boast losing records when it comes to completing our promises and unless you’re a mortal with god-like determination…2017 will likely catch another L as we fool ourselves into over promising and under delivering yet again.  While our own moral fiber may be to blame in our awful conversion rate on “mirror promises,” let’s give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and say that we failed because of circumstance and not self.


I’m sure you’ve all heard the term Hallmark Holidays.  If not, Valentines Day and Mothers Day fit the mold, as they are holidays that are perceived to exist primarily for commercial purposes, rather than to commemorate a traditionally or historically significant event.  You see, unlike Christmas which celebrates Christs birthday or the 4th of July which marks the start of American Independence, Hallmark Holidays are lines drawn in the sand rather than words carved in stone.  When it comes to the New Year, of course it celebrates something…but I stand here today questioning its significance and making a claim that the Earth completing an orbit around the sun is hardly enough of a catalyst to spark personal change.

It seems that promises are broken whenever an excuse surfaces itself.  “I didn’t go for a jog because it was raining out.  This restaurant doesn’t have any healthy options so I’ll opt for a side of fries.  It’s my brothers birthday so I have no choice but to drink hard liquor.”  Once the excuse becomes stronger than the original promise, we cave.  The promise is broken and we regress to our original, year younger selves…our new beginning has already found it’s end.  If an excuse is all we need to break a promise, how on Earth do we expect to keep the promise based on nothing more than, well, an excuse.


Bear with me.  Perhaps for an astrophysicist or Neil Armstrong, a complete solar orbit warrants quitting coffee cold turkey.  You see, if the excuse to start or end something is one we internalize and identify with, then perhaps it will be strong enough to actualize.  For the scientist who sits behind his telescope the new year is significant.  Day after day, they watch the abyss that is the universe rotate and as December rolls into January, they purloin the opportunity  to spectate another cycle.  The scientist is perhaps one of the few people who can actually devote themselves to real change simply based off of the restart of the calendar.  For everyone else in the world, the ones who don’t study the constellations, I fear the start of the new year is a Hallmark Holiday…an excuse.


On January 1st, Earth will begin to moonwalk around the sun yet again.  While we pop champagne and find significant others to smooch as the ball drops, the heart of the holiday isn’t something that most can truly identify with.  Time is an invention of man and in fact, it’s about as arbitrary as an SAT score.  If the start of our new year is this fleeting concept, how can we use this as our launch point to foster real impactful change in our lives?  The answer unfortunately, is that we can not.  A Resolution is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to changing tides.  In order for ANYTHING to alter from one state to another, a catalyst must be present.  To foster change, something must act as the driver to turn the reactants into the new products.  Without getting too mystical, to change a person isn’t all that different from the chemical reactions we learned in chemistry…

To highlight our point, let’s look towards the extreme.  We’ve all heard the stories of the cancer survivor who ended their career in advertising to pursue painting.  The financial analyst who was spared in a car accident and subs his calculator out for a fishing rod.  While the New Year is arbitrary, a Near Death Experience is something real that can evoke change.  It’s awakening, organic, and lucid.  Making a U-Turn at heavens gates is a drastic circumstance, but it is something that can make a career man quit his job to spend more time with the family or that will force an adrenaline junky to hang up the parachute.  While the contrast is stark, it shows the fault in our New Years resolutions.  Flatlining is a wake up call that will change a man. Another solar revolution is too subliminal to make the smoker quit his vice.  As far as most of us are concerned, the New Year is our excuse to change, but being as we can hardly identify with what we’re celebrating, we will concede to our promises as quickly as we made them.


24 hours out from 2017 and resolutions are being drawn.  January regiments may be kept but excuses will arise for 365 days without fail.  In order to really bite down on our self-made promises, the rationale  for which we start them must be unwavering compared to the catalyst we project our new selves from.  So while I applaud the masses who take aim to better themselves in the upcoming year, you’re failure will be about as surprising as the Starbucks line tomorrow.  If we want to make real change, we need real reason.  Promises made to ourselves are the hardest ones to keep, so while there are appropriate times to turn on your inner-salesman, why do the disservice of selling yourself?


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