In some ways, our ability to make New Year's resolutions, year after year, is a tribute to the hopefulness of the human spirit. No matter what's happened in the past, we always believe that things can go up from here, that our Best Life is waiting just around the corner, and that we can turn this sinking ship called our life around with nothing but a full heart, clear eyes, some kale smoothies, and a pack of nicotine gum. That's why more than 40 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions each year.
But our ability to make New Year's resolutions, year after year, is also a tribute to the vast, terrifying human capacity for self-deception. How could solving all your deep-seated personal problems be as simple as cutting out caffeine, power-walking twice a week, or watching PBS instead of Law & Order: Hey, That Guy Took All the Pennies Out of the 'Take a Penny, Leave a Penny' Jar? Of course it isn't; that's why only 8 percent of New Year's resolutions end up sticking. To truly put that fact in context for you, let me also note that 10 percent of Americans go to work stoned. Hopeful Americans, you are being bested in your success rates by people who keep a bong shaped like a wizard in their car's glove compartment! Are you really going to let this stand?!
And yet, though part of the magic of New Year's resolutions is in their blind optimism, maybe we could stick to them a little bit better if we were more honest with ourselves about what they require, and how they'll pan out. This year, let's all tell ourselves the truth about what New Year's resolutions mean, and maybe more than 8 percent of us will be able to stick to them.
1. Get in Shape
What You Pretend It Means: This year, you're going to turn your body into a finely-honed fitness machine. You're going to do crunches, you're going to run laps, you're going to start wearing yoga pants because you do yoga, not just because "it's too early to deal with a zipper when I get ready in the morning."
What It Actually Means: This year, you're going to pay $600 for a membership to a hot yoga studio, go once, get so red-faced and sweaty that you feel like you are a giant living piece of ham, and then denounce physical fitness to your friends as a "scam."
2. Spend Less Time Using Social Media
What You Pretend It Means: You have one precious life, and you're going to live it! You're going to go out there and engage with your real community, not the fake, shallow online world that everyone is obsessed with.
What It Actually Means: You're going to spend three weeks posting ominous Facebook messages about how you're going to delete your Facebook account, so anyone who wants have your real contact information better ask for it now. Then you're going to get distracted by new episodes of your favorite TV shows, forget about the whole thing, and get really into a new social media app that lets you text pictures of cat's butts to your friends.
3. Eat Better
What You Pretend It Means: You're going to do a juice cleanse to jump-start your great new eating habits, and then dedicate the rest of your life to micro-greens and cashew milk. You'll sagely tell co-workers "Yeah, I just feel so clear-headed and have so much energy now! It really makes you think about all the garbage we put in our bodies."
What It Actually Means: You will order the salad instead of the French fries with your burger a few times. It will taste like punishment, and you will stop.
4. Cut Down on Drinking
What You Pretend It Means: You don't need to drink to have fun! You're going to go totally dry for the rest of the winter, and just do exciting cultural things when you want to hang out with your friends, like go to concerts or have long discussions about philosophy.
What It Actually Means: You're going to stop drinking for the first two weeks in January, until you realize that going to concerts and having long discussions about philosophy while sober is excruciating.
5. Watch More Documentaries
What You Pretend It Means: Who needs a few episodes of Friends to unwind with at the end of a long day when you have Blackfish?
What It Actually Means: You spend a week watching documentaries about environmental pollution, violent military conflicts, and deadly incurable diseases...which will then be followed by a week where you are so depressed, you can do nothing but stream Friends episodes for five hours a day.
6. Get a New Hobby
What You Pretend It Means: You'll gain self-esteem and a new outlook on life when you find out how talented you are at some new hobby, like needlepoint!
What It Actually Means: You'll spend three weeks half-assing it through a needlepoint project, and then give up and store it in a drawer beside your partially knit sweater, "Teach Yourself Finnish" course, and the never-realized plans for your pet photography business.
7. Floss Regularly
What You Pretend It Means: You will floss every night, and finally, for the first time in your life, be able to look your dentist straight in the eye when she asks you if you've been flossing, rather than averting your gaze like a coward.
What It Actually Means: You will floss every night for a week, forget to do it for three months, and still cower in terror when your dentist asks leading questions about your oral hygiene habits.
8. Take a Class
What You Pretend It Means: Just because you're out of school, why should you stop learning? Also, maybe you could meet some new friends/dates there...you know, just if it happens, not a big deal either way.
What It Actually Means: You will show up to your night class twice, determine that none of your 65-year-old classmates want to be your friend — or even want to be particularly polite to you when you ask them if they know where the bathroom is — and try to haggle with the registrar's office to get your tuition back.
9. Give Up a Bad Habit
What You Pretend It Means: You will gracefully and effortlessly quit smoking/ biting your nails/ consuming your entire body weight in red meat each week.
What It Actually Means: You will tell all your friends about your resolution, and that they should get on your case if they see you smoking/ biting/ double-fisting medium rare Porterhouses. Then, when they do get on your case, you will yell at them for 45 uninterrupted minutes.
10. Read More Classic Literature
What You Pretend It Means: You already love to read — so why not dedicate this winter to putting down the YA and picking up Moby-Dick?
What It Actually Means: You'll spend six weeks reading the same six pages of Moby-Dick over and over, and then decide you were already literate enough before. I mean, most people in America are probably reading "dinosaur erotica" right now! You're already doing a lot better than pretty much everyone, if you really think about it.
11. Drink Less Coffee
What You Pretend It Means: You'll quit coffee for antioxidant-rich green tea!
What It Actually Means: You'll drink a few cups of green tea, decide it tastes like weird soup, and then realize that coffee isn't even that bad for you.
12. Stop Holding So Many Grudges
What You Pretend It Means: You're going to become ultra-spiritual, start meditating, and stop holding petty vendettas against your neighbors over the way they keep their TV turned up super-loud. The past is the past, right? Let's all have a clean slate, man!
What It Actually Means: Maybe you could reach a higher spiritual plane, move on from the past, and drop all your petty vendettas if you could have FIVE MINUTES OF SILENCE IN YOUR OWN GODDAMNED APARTMENT! DAMN YOUR NEIGHBORS! DAMN THEM TO HELL! Also, your mean 8th grade social studies teacher. Also, the guy who was once on line behind you at the grocery store and said, "Are you having a party, or just buying all that cake for yourself?"
13. Stop Swearing
What You Pretend It Means: You're classy and articulate, and the world will finally understand this once you successfully curb your pottymouth.
What It Actually Means: You'll successfully curb your pottymouth until the first time someone cuts you off in traffic, and then decide that being a grown woman yelling "Fiddlesticks!" is actually way less dignified than actually cursing.
14. Get Serious About Dating
What You Pretend It Means: You're not going to waste any more energy on jerks who act wishy-washy, send mixed signals, or don't get in touch when they say they will. You are only dating serious prospects this year.
What It Actually Means: You're going to spend 12 weeks rejecting everyone who sends you an OkCupid message that just says "Sup," and then get drunk and sleep with whichever ex is most easily accessible.
15. Go to Bed Earlier
What You Pretend It Means: You are going to get eight hours a night every night, no matter what.
What It Actually Means: You are going to get eight hours a night for four nights in a row, until you accidentally stay up until 3 a.m. reading about true crime mysteries on Wikipedia, and drop the whole project in shame.Images: New Line Cinema/ Rice Films/ Karz Entertainment/ New York Streets Film Projects, Giphy (16)