Comment: Time to make resolutions – but should we?

It’s that time of year again.

Today marks a week post-Christmas and the first day of the new year. As the chaotic frenzy of the holidays dissipates, the promise of January blooms forth into the hearts of many. In homes nationwide, people young and old will sit down today with purpose to compose their New Year’s Resolutions.

Maybe this tradition is somehow spawned by the pandemonium the holidays always seem to bring. For the past few weeks, we’ve all been fumbling around stores, hunting down the perfect gift for that special someone. We’ve attended family parties, office parties, dinner parties, and admittedly we might have eaten one too many slices of that decadent pecan pie.

And while not everyone’s Christmas experience is identical, the holiday storm never fails to sweep the nation off its feet and into a period of fervent chaos.

So maybe that’s why as one year comes to a close so many of us feel compelled to compose an array of personal goals for the upcoming one. New Year’s Resolutions help us to make order of our lives again.

Says Sarah Hopkins, a junior from Boulder, Colo., “People make New Year’s Resolutions to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s a way to better yourself.”

Her younger sister, Emily, chimes in. “I think it sets a goal that you feel the need to be set. You feel good when you complete whatever resolutions you made.”

Though neither girl habitually creates a list at the beginning of the year, both are familiar with the concept.

“I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions every year,” says Emily. “But if I do, usually it’s about doing well in school.”

“Or improving grades,” Sarah adds. “Definitely grades.”

Academics aren’t the only thing that many propose to reform about themselves. In a recent study by the University of Scranton, losing weight was the number one sought-after goal last year, followed by becoming more organized, saving money and living a healthy lifestyle. With the temptation of a new year stretched out before us, we strive to become overall better people, fitter, cleaner and more productive individuals.

“Making New Year’s Resolutions helps me feel like I’m getting something accomplished. It makes me feel better about myself, to say, ‘I’m going to change things,’” shares Irene Smith, a freshman in San Ramon and an avid adherent to this annual tradition. “As we get older, we feel like we need to progress. The new year signals a new start.”

Admittedly, there’s something undeniably promising about a new year. It’s quite enticing, the appeal of becoming somebody better than we were at the beginning of the year. The new year resembles a fresh start to our old ways, an opportunity to begin anew and alter our life in the way we see favorable. As humans, we’re always craving to expand, to grow from our past self and become an even better person than before.

However, not everybody always falls into the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon. For those of us that don’t regularly adhere to this tradition, it could be because we don’t see the need to exclusively select this out of all days to better ourselves.

“I never really make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s kind of an excuse to set goals,” admits Alex Westrick, an eighth-grader from Ashland, Oregon. “People can propose resolutions any time of the year, but because everyone is doing it (now), it’s easier to go along with it.”

Westrick represents one of the 175 million Americans who rarely partake in setting yearly goals.

Part of the reason so many refuse to follow this yearly custom could be due to its vast failing rate; the same study that listed the most sought-after resolutions reported that 92 percent are unsuccessful with achieving their set goals.

As can be observed from any irritated shopper in the last few weeks of the year, self-improvement often goes out the window in exchange for holiday fervor. Hardly are January goals completed with the same enthusiastic hand that wrote them.

Theresa Bradshaw, a resident of Morgan Hill, has her own theory regarding why so many fail to complete their proposed amendments. “I think the reason is due to the fact that many New Year’s Resolutions require a change in lifestyle, and that’s very difficult to do for most people.” Bradshaw rarely makes resolutions because she knows that she’ll “feel guilty if (she) breaks them.”

And in some ways, it’s a wonder we keep carrying on a tradition that hurls headfirst with all odds against us. As humans, we feel as if by changing a few of our bad habits, our lives will improve tremendously and our problems erased.

But what so many of us fail to realize, as we sit in the warmth of our home composing New Year’s Resolutions, is that there is so much to be appreciated already. Striving to become a better person is a fine goal, and in no way should this annual tradition be wiped out from human arsenals. But maybe, just maybe, we can form a new tradition every year.

As the promise of January stretches out before us, we should create a new column alongside our New Year’s Resolutions: Things We’re Thankful For.

It seems as if the holidays have a tendency to focus on material presents. The subconscious at its finest, as seen in any kid you’ve ever witnessed clamoring for opening Christmas presents, already longs for tangible gifts, something newer, something greener on the other side of the fence.

In actuality, it’s never about the material possessions, the bling, the sparkly enticements that whisper to us behind the window display. Life is constituted by the intangible things, the minuscule specks we forget about until it’s a month later and somebody asks you to recall a time you felt happy. Even the idea of “getting fitter” can be a glistening obstacle that stands in the way of one person and personal contentment.

We get, no pun intended, so wrapped up in the hurdles within our proximity that we forget to take a step back and be grateful for what we have. There’s so much in life to be happy for, like the small details of the holiday season that are so often overlooked or taken for granted. Amid the long list of personal goals, the lengthy queues for gift returns, and the exorbitant shopping bill that arrives in the mail, take time to cherish your friends and family. Those things are truly going to stick to you more than any resolution will.

What’s wrong with the our natural, organic self? As the new year begins and compilations of improvements are listed, we should recognize how fortunate we truly are.

Whether you participate in New Year’s Resolutions or not, it’s important to remember that just because something is out of your reach, it doesn’t mean it’s any better than the things you already have. The most benevolent goal of the new year can’t buy the same happiness that comes with gratitude.

Kara Liu is a junior at Beyer High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program.