Ok, ok. It's the New Year and I promise to be good -- kinda, sorta. But it's very hard not to be me at a time when Homo sapiens all over the world are doing very foolish things. Call it what you want, but I call it the "herd mentality," as in a herd of bovine pasture animals loudly bellowing and being led by an equally bovine and louder creature. Sure, sure, I can hear you: no, humans do not behave like cows, or sheep for that matter. We're intelligent beings, a cut way above the animals that grunt, screech and bellow.
Can't help shake the feeling about this cow thing. That's because every blinking New Year people do quite a lot of stupid things. And I'm no speaking about mall brawls akin to a marauding herd of wildebeests. For one they drink way too much alcohol, kiss the wrong set of people, and pull some all steamy all-nighters that leave them with monumental hangovers for the next couple of days. And they, like the rest of the human herd, make a number of unrealistic and unattainable New Year's resolutions. Thing is they do that EVERY BLOODY YEAR without fail.
More than 50 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions every year. These resolutions usually run the gamut of such things as weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking, cutting excessive "shopaholic" spending, finally, finally getting that degree, eating more veggies and sorting out the kinks in an on again, off again relationship. All of this is great news for Big Businesses. Almost on cue, just around the end of the "old year," gullible humans start to get bombarded with all kinds of pie-in-the-sky TV commercials designed to draw in people who have just resolved to do or change something in their humdrum lives.
We're suckers for all kinds of TV advertising crap. That's the same advertisers that urge you to eat more Domino's pizzas, drink more sugar-laden Snapple, binge drink on assorted Vodkas, rums, gins and in-between wine cooler mixtures, while all the very time pushing weight loss solutions a la Jenny Craig, Bowflex, and Weight Watchers. And if you believe that this should give us pause then think again -- we humans are living, walking gluttons, prone to excess as the grazing herd of bovine, ruminant denizens of the grassy pasture. Only we're on two legs instead of four.
So after solemnly swearing that this time, this time, yes THIS TIME, we're going to follow up on our New Year's resolutions by middle to the end of January they're pretty much out the proverbial door. Yep, about 78 percent of those who make these resolutions will not keep them. So why the heck do we do it in the first place? Well, for one thing, EVERYONE is doing it, so as good herd stock we just follow suit. Then our true human nature seeps forth -- we're a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites. While we smile and tell each other that we're going to make good on these resolutions, we know that we have ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION of sticking to our promises. It just sounds good during this fuzzy, half-drunk season of stupid. There is no other explanation.
One mega problem with New Year's resolutions is that they're made at the start of a New Year. So at this time people want to have some external reason -- perhaps even an excuse -- to reinvent themselves. Women secretly want to look better than Porker Betty with her belly falling out. Ugh! And men solemnly swear to cut back on the Jamaica White Rum because they've behaved like perfect jackasses while having a "few too many." People are a bit ashamed of how the past year went in relations to unfulfilled promises and other self-abuse issues like too much grog, too little exercise, and to much pigging out on the wrong foods.
But, humans are creatures of habit and so mentally it's very hard to change. At the start of a New Year it's very tempting to use an external factor as a focus for our short-lived reflex desire to change. However, the very fact that we're using the New Year to shove us into action indicates that we're not really capable or able to do the hard work necessary to change. Indeed, the New Year's hype about resolutions and change shows just how we fantasize our weaknesses and how over-ambitious and unrealistic we can be as a herd.
The upshot is that the abysmal failure of New Year's resolutions shows just how lacking in will power, determination, and focus that we are in the context of being driven like herd members towards unrealistic outcomes. These resolutions also have a kind of morbid sensibility from the standpoint of our being able to fantasize how we'll look with a TV six-pack abs body or a Brazilian butt lift or be alike a participant on Dancing With The Stars. These fantasies are short-lived and the immediate rush experienced when we make our New Years resolutions and con ourselves into believing that we're going to keep them -- this year -- soon turns into a depressing downer that drags us back to our old accustomed habits -- until next year when we make even more unrealistic resolutions that we're going to fail at -- over and over again and again.
So in my view, willpower just isn't too helpful. Thinking about the downside of failure could make people more despondent (especially since we aren't perfect all of the time). You can imagine the recipe for a disastrous New Year's resolution. For example, you've been trying desperately to lose weight for years. You've always failed. So this year, you're going to wait until the 31st of December and hope that the cultural connotations will help you get it right this time. You resolve not to give up, and try really, really hard. You imagine what it would be like to be fit and healthy, and torment yourself with images of obesity and diabetes. You might even buy a month's supply of fat-free rice-cakes, a running kit, gym membership, and set an ambitious target. Yeah right. You are guaranteed to fail.
Thing is New Year's resolutions are grossly over-hyped for commercial and money making reasons. Sensible plans to address important issues in your life can be made at any time of the year. So you do not need to follow the herd and make resolutions and all kinds of cockamamie self-delusional promises at the end of an old year for activation and implementation in the new one. But it feels good to be at a New Year's party with noise makers, hats, and being just a bit alcoholically merry, and belt out one or two resolutions to equally inebriated friends all doing the same thing.
My advice? If you don't want to break your New Year's resolutions just don't make them in the first place. Then again, I'm not a cow and I don't do the herd thing.