The ball dropped. The clock struck midnight. The calendar rolled over to a new year. With 2021 in the rearview mirror, 2022 stretches out ahead, full of possibilities.
The start of a new year is almost always exciting because it means a fresh start of sorts, even if a year is a fairly arbitrary marker of time.
This year seems particularly exciting, though. After surviving 2020 and the onset of the pandemic, 2021 felt uniquely disappointing. It started with an armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and went downhill from there.
With COVID-19 lingering in the background, we experienced events like a cargo ship getting wedged in the Suez Canal, a 12-story condominium collapse in Florida, people being crushed to death at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival, mass shootings like one at a Michigan school, and tornadoes and hurricanes ravaging communities.
There were a few brighter spots, though. We got to see the Tokyo Olympics finally happen, the Houston Astros lose the World Series, fat cats lose money thanks to meme stocks and day traders pushing back against Wall Street shorts, William Shatner soar into space like his Star Trek character Captain James T. Kirk via Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and the birth of the Santa Fe Way newspaper.
Of course, much more, both positive and negative, happened this year, but it feels like 12 months of more negative than positive, which I attribute to the general malaise of the pandemic and some recency bias.
As an avid fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” I keep hoping for the modern roaring twenties to start, complete with glitz and glamor and excess. It would be a fitting way to toast the end of the pandemic, which is how it had to feel following the 1918 Flu Pandemic.
However, the pandemic persists. Hopefully, as members of our collective society, we can stop being individualistic and work together to put an end to this. That would make 2022 a good year.
On a more personal level, though, I do hope the new year is a positive one. I want to be a better husband, father, friend, and educator. I want to constantly improve myself.
However, I refuse to make a New Year’s resolution.
Research suggests such resolutions don’t always work. Writing for BMJ, psychology professor Chris McManus said, “experience tells us that even strong intentions need not result in action. Many patients intend to give up smoking, drink less, and exercise more, and yet no action occurs. Such gaps between intention and behaviour are the outcome of most New Year’s resolutions. Even given the limitless human capacity for self deception, why do intentions sometimes not result in actions? Sometimes intentions are not intentions, but are actually desires.”1McManus, C. (2004). New Year’s resolutions. BMJ, 329(7480), 1413-1414. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7480.1413
That means more thought and planning is needed for a resolution to work and last longer than a few weeks or months into the new year. To be successful, as research in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being said, “unlike abstract superordinate goals, setting specific goals boosts performance.”2Höchli, B., Brügger, A., & Messner, C. (2020). Making New Year’s Resolutions that Stick: Exploring how Superordinate and Subordinate Goals Motivate Goal Pursuit. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 12(1), 30-52. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1111/aphw.12172
For example, one cannot just resolve to lose weight. A person has to come up with a plan. Joining a gym isn’t enough. Crafting a workout regimen and diet is needed, accompanied by accountability and attainable milestones to chart progress.
Without specific goals and plans, failure is likely, and failure is demoralizing. It can lead to people not trying in the future.
Small victories need to be achieved to push people forward and motivate them to continue when the process gets harder.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t develop a New Year’s resolution. Do whatever works for you, but I urge you not to do it just because it is the social thing to do.
Don’t take part in the, as research called it, “ritual declaration of commitments”3Hallinan, B., Kim, B., Mizoroki, S., Scharlach, R., Trillò, T., Thelwall, M., Segev, E., & Shifman, L. (2021). The value(s) of social media rituals: a cross-cultural analysis of New Year’s resolutions. Information, Communication & Society, 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.1983003 to just look good in your social or professional circles or to be viewed in a particular way on social media.
Do it for you. Do it for self-improvement.
It could be a private endeavor that doesn’t need an audience, but if it will help with accountability, share it online or otherwise. Just don’t do so to seek validation from the masses.
No matter what, though, I hope everyone has a better year than they experienced in 2021.
My wife’s family has a year-starting tradition of eating at least seven black-eyed peas for good luck, and they chase that with pork and sauerkraut. They swear by it.
Whatever your tradition for kicking off a new year, I hope you did it and set you and yours up for a great 2022.
So here’s to a new year. May the news be positive, the successes plentiful, and the joy and happiness abundant.
Todd Vogts is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.
Notes & References
- 1McManus, C. (2004). New Year’s resolutions. BMJ, 329(7480), 1413-1414. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7480.1413
- 2Höchli, B., Brügger, A., & Messner, C. (2020). Making New Year’s Resolutions that Stick: Exploring how Superordinate and Subordinate Goals Motivate Goal Pursuit. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 12(1), 30-52. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1111/aphw.12172
- 3Hallinan, B., Kim, B., Mizoroki, S., Scharlach, R., Trillò, T., Thelwall, M., Segev, E., & Shifman, L. (2021). The value(s) of social media rituals: a cross-cultural analysis of New Year’s resolutions. Information, Communication & Society, 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.1983003