The Top 9 New Year’s Resolutions — And The Reasons You Shouldn’t Feel Obligated To Keep Them

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Once the 2017 holidays start winding down, you might feel pressured to partake in the dreaded New Year's resolution-making process. Online-discussion community Forum Mantra compiled a list of the top nine New Year's resolutions for 2018 that are pretty consistent with the promises we make to ourselves every year. Top New Year's resolutions for 2018 run the gamut from getting out of debt, to eating healthier, and volunteering. While all of these are great things to strive for, they each take an enormous amount of time and commitment. But the thing about New Year's resolutions is, you never actually need to keep them — and furthermore, you shouldn't feel obligated to.

Just because you want to get out of debt in 2018 (seriously, who actually wants to be in debt?), making it your New Year's resolution doesn't mean it's going to happen like magic. It's actually a little more complicated than that. According to Christine L. Carter Ph.D. on Psychology Today, professors James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, who have written extensively about how people actually change their habits, revealed that real change actually occurs in stages versus all at once.

"They go from not even really considering making a change, to contemplating making one, to preparing to make the change […] and THEN (and only then) do they spring into action. The actual behavior change [...] is not the first stage of change, but the fourth," Dr. Carter explained. So, if you're contemplating making a change you're only on step two, and that's totally fine.

Unrealistic New Year's Resolutions Set You Up To Fail

Part of the reason up to 80 percent of New Year's resolutions fail by February, according to U.S. News, is because the goal is not backed with any action, which is a key component for things like getting out of debt, or committing to learning a new skill, two of the nine most popular New Year's resolutions on the Forum Mantra list. "The unfortunate truth is that change, all change, entails some degree of emotional friction, which in turn generates a 'heated state' we call stress," Clinical Psychologist Joseph Luciani, wrote for U.S. News.

"Whether you're feeling anxious, depressed, frustrated, fatigued, weak and out of control, or simply bored, emotional friction (stress) becomes the high-octane fuel of failure." Basically, this stress causes self-sabotage, and you actually need to change your brain before you tackle tangible change. The key, Luciani said, is starting small because the self discipline required to achieve a massive goal is something that gets stronger over time, like a muscle.

And while you might want to commit to getting more sleep or to volunteering on the regular, which are the seventh and eighth most popular New Year's resolutions, respectively, you're not suddenly going to wake up Jan. 1 fully rested and spending your afternoons cuddling babies in the local hospital volunteer program. Don't beat yourself up. Change doesn't work that way.

You Are Not Obligated To Change For Others

The top New Year's resolution Forum Mantra noted is fitness, followed by eating healthy. It's important to remember that fitness and health look different for everyone. If you feel obligated to up your fitness game because of some sort of external pressure from a friend, partner, or parents — that's not the best reason to take up kickboxing.

Similarly, there are varying degrees of things like healthy eating or fitness, and just because someone shames your eating or fitness routine does not mean you have to change it. Earlier this year I tried to become vegan, and I have never felt worse in my life. While some vegans are the picture of health, my body violently rejected this food trend that's by and large considered healthy. Not being a vegan doesn't mean I am not healthy, or not a good person. What's more, you're likely going to be pretty resistant to change that is initiated by others.

"You sorta want to make a change [...] but in your heart of hearts, you know you don’t intend to make that change just yet. Or maybe you don’t really want to make the change, but someone else is pressuring you to make a New Year’s resolution," Dr. Carter explained on Psychology Today. "You can see their point, and you aren’t entirely opposed to the idea, but… just reading this you can feel your resistance rising. You probably know this, but you aren’t ready to make a New Year’s resolution. If you do make one at this stage, you’ll probably fail. You’re in the first stage of change, which is called 'Pre-contemplation.'"

Remember, Change Is Hard AF

Fact: change is hard. If change were easy the world would be a very different place, and I would have quit smoking years ago, which — by the way — is the third most popular New Year's resolution, followed by quitting drinking. What Tom Hanks says in A League Of Their Own about baseball applies to most everything in life. "If It were easy, everyone would do it." So, just because the calendar flips to a new year doesn't mean you're suddenly going to be a whole new person, and that's OK.

If you do want to commit to something like meditation or traveling more (the sixth most popular New Year's resolution), it's much easier if you have a buddy who you can check in with so you can hold each other accountable. Additionally, you might not completely accomplish this goal in one year because you're a human being with a life and complex emotions that are unique to you.

For example, I recently completed a month-long meditation challenge, however it took me years to get to that point. While I first tried meditation six years ago, I was resistant AF, and I could never stick with it. The more people foisted it on me, the more resistant I became. Embracing meditation was a year's long process for me, and I was only able to complete the challenge because I personally felt ready, and I was also in an accountability group on Facebook with four other friends who were also doing the same thing. Now I meditate every day, but if I had made this a New Year's resolution for myself back in 2012, there is zero chance that I would have achieved it.

And, if you don't want to make a New Year's resolution in the first place, you are under no obligation to do so. Gossip Girl's Kelly Rutherford told InStyle, "I don't make New Year's resolutions. It puts a lot of pressure on us. It's not that I'm not goal-oriented — I used to do it. Listen to yourself instead of trying to meet all these expectations." I think that's pretty solid advice.