Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Last

An expression that exists to describe why people take decision differently between options that can be decided right now or only after a certain delay: Temporal myopia.

However, what is located within a certain horizon of presence is more relevant for our actions compared to what stands farther away. That is why the delicious cream cake on the plate in front of you right now has more power over you than the idea of a trim body in future. This is why the idea of working out now, which would mean a sacrifice at present for some future outcome, is less desirable than a lazy afternoon on the sofa binge-watching your favourite show.

That is why it is so easy to have New Year’s resolutions because they are about the future. I don’t have to start exercising right now, but only after the holiday season when I am back in my daily life. That is not now but will come later. We might continue with the habit we wanted to stop. We may say: I will stop later like the New Year’s Resolution is a January resolution, then a February resolution, etc.

As per the American neurologist Antonio Damasio, choices almost never involve a strict alternative between reason and affect. Emotional assessments play a key role in all decisions. It is the feelings that determine the value of the options for activity as well.

More generally, we can talk about meaning and take it as the driving factor for why people actually can overcome the strong emotional pressure of immediate urges and wishes as well. A meaningful life is what we all want. That is why humans can make sacrifices at present for important future goals. That is what psychologist Jordan Peterson says, ”Meaning is more important than impulsively consuming what you want. When you have a future-oriented goal you organize your life accordingly: You regulate your immediate impulses and act for the future benefit of yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you.”

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