You fought the good fight … for 35 days now. Your discounted trial at the Crossfit studio has expired, and you’re not going back.
The teeny tiny meals in your diet plan have turned out not to be as satisfying as hot chips. You’ve ghosted your personal trainer. You put your first novel back in the drawer, again.
New Year’s resolutions notoriously don’t stick. Maybe it’s because humans are essentially lazy creatures of habit. Or maybe as my colleague David Marr told me: “Resolutions are spurred on by self-disgust. Once the self-disgust passes, there’s no urge to change.”
But what if the self-disgust never passes? Does that mean you actually have to go through with your resolution? For resolutions to stick, you need not only a carrot, but also a stick.
So let’s look at few scenarios (none of these people are real!) that illustrate motivations and pitfalls of sticking to your resolutions.
Finding love online
After the last unsolicited dick pic Alicia received, which resembled a burst blood sausage, she deleted her dating profile. Never again, she vowed. But after having no luck in the wild, she’s back baby! 2020 is the YEAR FOR LOVE. She’s reinstalled all the apps but after a few weeks scrolling through them, she remembered why she left. Many of the same bad lads are there with their misspelt tattoos and their internet socialism. On dates, they don’t ask her any questions.
It’s now February and Alicia wants to delete all the apps. But what if The One is on there and it’s just a matter of toughing it out and going on 208 dates?
What keeps you motivated: Fomo. Maybe the perfect guy for her is the guy that signs up to BRUTE dating app, the day after she deletes BRUTE app.
Being a better person
For a while now, Kerri has secretly suspected she may have personality issues. When her team gave her a performance review and had to provide positive feedback, the only nice thing they could muster was that she had “nice sunglasses”.
At the company retreat colleagues raised her abusive and unpredictable yelling when someone uses her mug, her openly expressed hatred of colleagues that wear ostentatious glasses, her opposition to halal meat in the canteen (“tastes weird”) and her long dispute about putting in a wheelchair ramp for Kevin (but, she argued, it would ruin the symmetry of the pebble garden).
When her husband left her after eight weeks of marriage, he stated, almost with wonder: “You are actually a genuinely nasty person.”
Perhaps in 2020 she could change – as the anonymous feedback suggested from being “an anti-role model, the sort of person I don’t want to become” – to at least a neutral figure.
What keeps you motivated: the loneliness of being repellant.
Chance of success: correlates to motivation.
Since everybody Darrell knows has told him that he MUST watch The Game Changers on Netflix, and since he watched it and was super impressed with all the swoll vegan athletes, Darrell has decided to become vegan.
It’s a no-brainer, thought Darrell. Just like his second-favourite actor Joaquin Phoenix, he would be going vegan to save the planet but also as an added benefit he would lower his really very scary high cholesterol.
Problem is, the only thing Darrell can cook is toast and steak. Tofu makes him gag. Now all he eats is toast and burgers from vegan fast food chains. In his 35 carb-heavy days of being a vegan, he has put on weight and feels lethargic. But this is meant to be healthy, right?
What keeps you motivated: cancer. The apocalypse. Improved performance time should he become an elite athlete.
Chance of success: moderate. Going vegan properly is a major change of lifestyle and unless you are prepared and committed, it can be easy to give up.
Since Peter heard that all the garbos just put all the rubbish into one big container that ends up being shipped … somewhere, he decided that recycling is a con.
But when an anonymous letter arrived from neighbours (“PLEASE RECYCLE YOUR WASTE!!!!”) shaming him, Peter has decided to recycle again. As well as doing his bit for the planet (presuming of course that it all doesn’t end up in the one big bin, which is then tossed in the sea), he gets to avoid doing something which causes him pain – having stressful interactions with his neighbours.
What keeps you motivated: public shame. The apocalypse.
Chance of success: high.
Going on a diet
At first Belinda thought her pants had shrunk. She must have put them on extra-hot wash because they were a normal size in November but now in January they have shrunk.
But pulling out all her clothes that were not athleisure, that were not stretchy or with an elastic waist, she found that they had all shrunk.
Belinda has heard about the benefits of fasting and how prehistoric humans went for days without food and then feasted after a hunt. But after her first attempt at missing a meal, Belinda COULD NOT DEAL.
She was SO ANGRY. She couldn’t meet her deadlines. The only way Belinda was able to fast without extreme discomfort for 18 hours at a stretch was to sleep through it.
What keeps you motivated: needs clothes.
Chance of success: low, unless sleeping.
Giving up alcohol
Dave can’t remember New Year’s Eve or how he got home, but his Uber rating from the journey was so low he got kicked off the app.
When he woke up his phone screen was smashed, his shirt was stained (kebab? A wound?) and his contact lenses he had half taken off were stuck to his cheeks.
NEVER AGAIN!!! NEVER, EVER AGAIN EVER!!! I’M NEVER DRINKING AGAIN!!
Dave downloaded some sobriety apps to his phone and joined an online support community. But then there was that party coming up after that – and then all the other parties and Dave started making so many exceptions that his online sober community started questioning his commitment, and eventually he did too.
What keeps you motivated: remember the bad times, not the good times.
Chance of success: take it one day at a time.
• Brigid Delaney is a Guardian Australia columnist