What is in a resolution?

I always thought that New Year’s resolutions were pointless.

The new year is an arbitrary measure – a line that we draw in the sand after we have taken a certain number of steps. It simply happens to fall in the end of December. Unlike the equinoxes or the solstices, it isn’t even a day of (minor) astronomical significance.

When you wish to improve something about your life, why wait for a particular day of the year? Besides, most New Year’s resolutions are broken.

2019 has been a year where I have dug deeper into the fascinating field of behaviour science. This tryst has helped me better appreciate several quirks in human behaviour, including New Year’s resolutions.

A New Year’s resolution is a social norm. We are surrounded by social norms. We choose restaurants to visit (Yelp), sights to see in a new city (TripAdvisor), books to read (Goodreads) and movies to watch (IMDB) based on what other people are doing. We are creatures that lean into popularity.

New Year’s is a time when it is popular to try and become a better version of one’s self. That intent in itself is meaningful enough. Even if most of these resolutions fail, the ones that succeed make us a happier species and the world a better place. A New Year’s resolution has unlimited upside and limited downside.

Here’s wishing you a kick-ass 2020 and much success with your resolutions!

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