Ollie’s Modern Life : Ollie’s feeling the pressure from New Year’s resolutions

This month, Ollie wrestles with the existential crisis of New Year’s resolutions

Happy New Year! 2018 marks a new era, a time of change, a time of progression, where we put our differences aside, become better people and a better planet. It’s a year full of hope, a year that’s begging to be filled with wonderful, monumental and extraordinary things. It’s a year that gives you the chance to be a new you, a better version of you. A version of you who goes to the gym and eats broccoli like you always said you were going to do. It’s a year that holds so much promise because it’s not 2017 or 2016. This is 2018, a fresh, brand spanking, new flipping year. Apart from it isn’t.

2018 is instead an excuse for you to justify how shit you were in 2017. “It’s ok, I’ll be better in 2018, now pass me the fucking cake”. Yeah, whatever. You’ll do a dry January (apart from the last few days) and that’ll be enough for you to settle back into your terrible way of life. And do you know what, that’s absolutely fine.

Civilizations have been making promises to themselves leading into a new year for bloomin’ ages. The Babylonians promised their gods that they would pay off their debts and give back stuff they borrowed. The Romans made promises to their god Janus, the big cheese of January, and in Medieval times, Knights of the realm made the ‘Peacock Vow’ essentially saying they were all good with Chivalry ‘n that. By the end of the Great Depression around a quarter of Americans were making New Year's resolutions and as we plugged our way into the 21st century, that hit 40%.

But here we are in the actual fucking future and we’re still up to our old tricks. We’re fat, greedy and in debt. Even if the research suggests that New Year's Resolutions work for 46% of people (which it does), that means that they don’t work for 54% of us, and I blame “Smashing it”.

You’ve heard of “smashing it”. People say it all the time. “He’s gonna smash it” or “look, she’s smashed it!” or perhaps “we’re gonna smash it this year”. I first noticed it had hit the mainstream when it chimed from an over enthusiastic contestant on Masterchef The Professionals. It is the vocal identity of an idea, a philosophy, in which we are all expected to “smash it”. That is to do brilliantly, to win, to beat, to defeat, to succeed. And that’s the problem.

What exactly is wrong with just doing ok? Whatever happened to “it’s the taking part that counts”? Today the expectation on us all is to smash everything all the ruddy time and frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s no wonder the phrase has been adopted from gym people who partake in the “Assassin PT” workout. And the problem with that mentality is that it is so easy to give up.

Just look at where we are in 2018. We continue to pollute the planet even though we know it is bad for us. We continue to eat colossal amounts of meat even though we know it is bad for us. We use our phones and social media more than ever, even though we know it is bad for us. We drink far too much, even though we know it is bad for us. We do this because the idea of giving the all of this up completely and becoming a saintly uber-fit, smart, funny and beautiful being, ready to “smash it”, deep down, isn’t who we are.

We are fallible, and one of the biggest mistakes we make, all of the time, is forgetting that we are fallible. It’s why we give up on our New Year's Resolutions so easily. We set unachievable goals that only make us feel shit when we don’t achieve them. We never knew we were so terrible, and that makes us feel terrible. 

And it’s not just us. People in power do it all the time. They set themselves ridiculous, huge challenges that are unrealistic and unachievable. Nuclear disarmament, fixing the global economy, reversing climate change. It’s not that I don’t want to see these things happen, but I don’t know why they don’t start with the small stuff first, the end result of which could lead to any one of these outcomes. 

So what to do about it? You can start by binning all the New Year's Resolutions you made. I mean carry on losing weight by all means, but don’t hold yourself to it just because a podcast told you that statistically you are more likely to succeed if you do. If it’s not on your “to-do” list and you don’t do it, then what’s the problem? There isn’t one.

So, raise a glass to 2018, the year in which we, the world and everyone, stop making promises that we’re not gonna to keep. Cheers!

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