Commentary, Opinion

Point-counterpoint: New Year’s resolutions

The McGill Tribune contributors Favour Daka and James Li present their opinions on New Year’s resolutions.

Favour Daka, Against:

People often see the beginning of a new year as a time for reflection, when they can use the lessons of the past year as an incentive for positive change in the coming months. It is also the time where the excitement for New Year’s resolutions peaks. While people’s intentions for creating New Year’s resolutions may be positive, these resolutions can involve poor goal-setting.

Normally, people view New Year’s resolutions as only being valid for a year, which in turn causes people to unrealistically put every goal into a year-long time-frame. As a result, one may not consider ways to motivate and sustain themselves beyond the initial excitement of the New Year. This failure to conceptualize goals requiring more than a year may be why only two out of 10 Canadians manage to complete their New Year’s resolutions. Society’s obsession with instantaneous results obscures an understanding of progress and how it relates to time. New Year’s resolutions often involve the breaking of habits or creating new ones, a process that sometimes requires professional help, but more importantly, requires extensive time. 

New Year’s resolutions have become a standard practice in setting unrealistic goals. Life is spontaneous, and this serves as an important argument against the creation of New Year’s resolutions. Depending on the type of goal, most New Year’s resolutions are often abrupt decisions which aim towards a social standard, be it fitness, finance, or academics. If not fulfilled, resolutions can result in personal and financial costs that can be both damaging and demotivating. Therefore, with the overarching reality that a resolution may expire long before it is actualized, the idealistic characteristics of New Year’s resolutions can lead to negative results.


James Li, For:

As students hang up their brand-new 2020 calendars, many will also choose to draft a list of accompanying resolutions for the year ahead. However, there is increasing criticism of the effectiveness of these annual periods for reflection and goal-setting. While there are limitations to this millenia-old tradition and they are not overly comprehensive, the fact that New Year’s resolutions are so embedded in our culture makes them an accessible gateway into a more deliberate way of life. Burdened students may find it hard to get into the routine of reflection and planning, which is why they should start with the New Year.

Once a year may not be frequent, but New Year’s resolutions require work to be maintained on a regular basis and any amount of concerted effort adds up. It is easy to blow over or simply forget any other self-mandated regimen, but the ubiquity of New Year’s resolutions makes them difficult to ignore. Some will argue, though, that these resolutions are far too difficult to keep.

Because there are so many people beginning self-improvement endeavors at this time of the year, these goals offer a support system. From a friend with the same goal as you to the plentiful online resources available, any goal is more likely to be seen through. Yes, there is also abundant joking and criticism of New Year’s resolutions, but these also help normalize an essential aspect of goal-making: failure. The positive coverage provides support and the negative helps people realize it is okay to fail and that they should continue regardless.

For centuries, New Year’s resolutions were mostly religious or moral devotions. Today, they represent an opportunity to reflect and grow. Although the contents of our resolutions have greatly changed, their enduring place in society is their biggest strength. 


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