When it Comes to Achieving New Year’s Resolutions, Men Need Rewards, Women Need Social Pressure

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Well, kids! A brand new year is menacingly high-tailing it upon us in the rearview mirror of our lives, AKA, time to scramble to transmogrify into a person with different thighs or a believable interest in Russia. That's right, it's time for New Year's Resolutions, that old hat we keep donning where we pick an arbitrary time to improve ourselves in some generically specific way, but never really do it because, duh, stuff is hard, and we are but people. Insert statistic here about failure/success rates that no one cares about.


And, yet, every year we throw down the gauntlet of the same goals time and time again that don't work: the losing of the weight, the keeping of the money, the beautification of the ankles, you name it.

And every year, we find out brand new, never-thought-up-before ways to make those resolutions stick.

Maybe your resolutions are coming from the wrong place and they need to come from the right place, AKA, love. Or maybe you're doing it wrong by being a man using a woman's strategies, or a woman using a man's. (I, for one, hate it when that happens. You try to clean a toilet like a man and you come out with a man-cleaned toilet. What?)

"Men were significantly more likely to succeed when asked to engage in either goal setting (e.g. instead of trying to lose weight in general, aiming to lose a pound each week) or focusing on the rewards associated with their goal (e.g. being more attractive to the opposite sex).

"Women were more successful when they told their friends and family about their resolution or were encouraged to be especially resilient and not to give up because they had reverted to old habits (e.g. if dieting, treating a chocolate binge as a temporary setback rather than as a failure)."

So let me get this straight: Men couldn't just say, "I'm gonna lose some weight," they needed to say "I'm going to lose one pound per week." OR, they needed to think about getting banged. Women, on the other hand, need someone in their lives to say right to their faces, "Why are you still eating that breaded thing when you know you said it makes you retain water?" OR they need to not completely utterly eviscerate themselves if they have a piece of chocolate.

Look, I don't know, I am sure that these are all good people and good examples of how things work, but it seems super obvious and ridic to say men need to be specific and bangable, while women need to be pressured and validated. I mean, sure, in some ways, that lines up with the sort of stereotypical thinking we have about gender: men are specific, goal-oriented creatures, and women are social creatures ultimately more concerned with their standing among peers.


But really these are both the same things: they involve accountability and realistic expectations. Well, plus there's the whole banging thing. Past that, we are just individual people with individual ways of working. I'm sure some people could lose weight with an app timed to play "Crazy Train" every four hours. It's whatever.

But the real whatever is that behind all this crazy train of New Year's Resolutions is this idea that once a year, just cuz, we're going to change something. Yeah! Let's change! But change doesn't work that way, at least not for me. And I'm guessing it doesn't work that way for most other people.


Change doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens because you decide you cannot stand living however it is you were living before, and you are now motivated by some force inside or outside yourself to make you do it differently. That is not about gender, it's about your personality and habits. If that means changing your driving route so you no longer pass a Del Taco at approximately 4:38 p.m., so be it. If that means getting a job at Del Taco so you have so much Del Taco smell up on you that you'll never eat it again, that could be your thing, too.

You are a complex set of habits and assumptions based on physiology and environment and conditioning and all sorts of things that add up to how you are, but more importantly, how you are not. And how you are and how you are not is basically the same, and probably always will be. I'm not being all pessimistic. People totally can change. It just takes a combination of willpower and environmental support to do it.


Seriously — think of everyone you know and how many of them changed things significantly about themselves. It's rare, no? Most people are fairly predictably themselves, even if they are predictably unpredictable type people.

And If you've ever actually changed a habit about yourself, such as becoming healthy or quitting biting your nails, you should ignore all this pop culture pabulum about what to do to change and simply study yourself. How did you do it? What worked? How did you feel when you did it? These are the most important guides for you, because you know yourself and you know how you really are, unlike some guy from Harvard or whatever.


I also know how I really am. I once quit doing two of the hardest, most (fun!) ingrained habits of my entire existence: drinking and smoking. I had all kinds of plans all over the years to not do them so much anymore, but they never stuck, and in the end, I only quit them when I had to: because I became pregnant. The motivation of not harming my unborn child was an unequivocal brick wall of STOP. It just wasn't an issue. I'm not saying it was easy; I'm just saying it was not an option to give up. My brain made it that way, and in order to change something else, I will have to make my brain make it that way again.

So basically I will just have to keep getting pregnant. No really, it's why I never, ever make New Year's Resolutions. My brain does not take them seriously. My brain thinks it's dumb to come up with them just because everyone else is, so my brain will undermine itself for even pretending to do it. It's a non-starter kind of problem brain. If you have that kind of brain, too, let's start a support group first thing 2013.


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Am I the only one who doesn't bother with New Year's resolutions?