Kenzi: Well, it’s over three weeks into the new year–have you broken your resolutions yet?
Maybe that’s too cynical. How about a different question: are you crushing your new year’s resolutions? I hope you are.
Personally, I think New Year’s Resolutions are stupid. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
I like to think that instead of achieving a goal, I should aim for a new lifestyle or habit (which resolutions normally have nothing to do with). I want it to be something that I will continue throughout the year and into the future. Also, realistically achievable goals are very hard to make (thanks to behavioral economics we know why). Also, most goals are not even measurable. How do you even know if you achieved your new year’s resolution to be more fit, healthy and happy?
Criticisms aside, I did make a New Year’s Resolution to track the number of books I read this year with Goodreads. I set my goal for 55 books this year (help keep me accountable by joining me in this ambitious goal). I like to read and I am already reading a lot for class and pleasure, so why not keep track of it? This is the only resolution I will make while focusing more on ways to become a better person through new habits and lifestyle changes that I will not dirty by categorizing them as “New Year’s Resolutions.”
Kevin: Well, I actually am crushing my New Year’s resolutions, thank you very much. I do agree that resolutions should not necessarily achieve a “goal” but attempt a new lifestyle. My two important resolutions were to get fit (again) and to not get angry—at anything. I see these both as lifestyle changes. However, I have set goals to strategically achieve my desired lifestyle changes. In order to get fit, I decided to sign up for a marathon in July. I’ve essentially scared myself into “getting fit.” Running a marathon REQUIRES training every day (including “rest” days).
Research shows that it takes way more than 21 days to create a new habit or break an old one. Setting up my marathon in July offers the perfect incentive to keep me on track so that I can create a long-lasting change.
My motivation for my second resolution comes from a slew of Bible verses that talk about anger. All of them have one thing in common: nothing good comes from being angry. James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Proverbs 22:24 says “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with on easily angered.” No one likes being friends with angry people. Moreover, this is pretty standard. We’re quick to tell angry people to calm down, but when someone tells us to calm down when we’re angry, we find it hard to swallow.
Some people may claim that anger is an automatic response to pain, but even psychologists say that anger is tied to a thought. So, our thoughts determine whether or not we get angry after sh** happens. By, actively choosing to not become angry, the aim is to achieve a lifestyle change. It might be a little easier for me because as an economist, the world isn’t so crazy. I just chalk the sh** to weird budget constraints—people have different perceptions of costs and benefits. Thus, there’s no reason to get angry. But, for those who don’t use the economic way of thinking (#EWOT), they may be more susceptible to anger. The economics of anger: why waste my scarce mental, physical, and emotional resources on something that will reduce my social and human capital.
In any case, I have yet to get angry this year. Let’s keep this ball rollin’.
Kathryn: I always keep the ball rollin’ cause I always make the exact same New Year’s resolution, year after year. This will be the year I finally finish that novel I’m working on, publish it and become an NYT bestselling author.
What is that you say? My resolution is unrealistic? Well, excuse you! We’ll see who’s being unrealistic when I’m making millions!
Cecilia: New Year’s Resolutions promote binge behavior. Picture this: You make a resolution to eat healthy and cut out carbs, but in a tragic turn of events you somehow eat a donut. On a normal day, a donut is a donut, right? Given your resolution though, this fatal donut throws you into a binging spiral. Next thing you know, you’re on the couch with an empty box of donuts, questioning how you strayed so far.
In behavioral economics, Kahneman and Tversky discuss the marginal value pattern of loss versus gains. The marginal value lost from the first loss is much greater than that of the twenty-first loss. The marginal value gained from the first gain is much greater than that of the twenty-first gain. This is known as diminishing marginal utility. Interestingly, the absolute value of first losses are actually much greater than that of the first gains, showing that we feel losses much more strongly than we feel gains–we are, what Kahneman and Tversky coin, loss averse.
So while gains might be had from a New Year’s Resolution, this raised standard sets us up to interpret our normal or rather “below resolution” behavior as a loss. So rather than set us up for gains, New Year’s Resolutions prime us to perceive our improved behavior as the status quo, our normal behavior as losses, and therefore worse behavior than before as not as much of a loss. So as a behavioral economist I avoid New Year’s Resolutions.
Phillip: To make the best New Year’s Resolutions, think like a Venture Capitalist. I’m a huge fan of New Year’s goals as long as they include Kenzi’s caveat of being measurable. If my goal is to be more fit, my resolution would be to run a 4-minute mile by the end of the year or bench 300 pounds.
You’re probably thinking, “Phillip, that’s absurd, there’s no way you can run a 4-minute mile or bench 300 pounds.”,
Who do you think you are, telling me what I can and cannot do?!?
Okay, I’ll admit that I do have some trouble reaching some of my goals. I may set a goal to practice Russian for two hours every day or read a book a week. Usually, I am far from reaching these goals at the end of the year, yet I do achieve some of them—partially. To me, I see this as marginal improvements—meaning I end up a little better every year.
There is a famous, horribly, cliche saying: “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” This is the mindset of the Venture Capitalist. Each individual startup is a moonshot. However, if they invest in enough of them, they have a high probability that one is bound to succeed. One success is all it takes for a Venture Capitalist to make money. One success pays for the failure of the rest.
I make New Year’s Resolutions “moonshot” goals because even if I don’t achieve 99% of them, that one achievement will make me a better person.
Here’s to a year of moonshots!