The Evolution of the Resolution

Have you ever made your New Year’s Resolution to exercise and get healthy? If the answer is yes, then you’re with the majority of the United States since 2015. According to the website Nielsen, in 2015, 37% of people’s New Year’s Resolution fell into the category of “stay[ing] fit and healthy” and 32% wanted to “lose weight.”

Between never-ending new diets and constant ads for weight loss and exercise equipment, it is no secret that we live in a health-crazed and physical appearance obsessed culture. This is something we are used to, but it becomes especially clear when New Year’s Resolutions are made. While there is nothing wrong with focusing on health and the betterment of oneself, the prominence of health and weight loss in American culture can be seen through the common resolution. Every year you hear many different New Year’s Resolutions, this one seems to be heard more than most. Health and exercise seems to reign at the top of all the lists.

2016 held a surprising turn of events. Despite the fact that “live a healthier lifestyle” and “lose weight” were runners-up, the resolution of “enjoy life to the fullest” reigned supreme in 2016. In 2015, this resolution was high on the charts, but below staying healthy and losing weight. In 2017, the same resolutions make an appearance. However, in the top three there is a new arrival: “Get organized” (along with “being healthy” and “living life to the fullest”). Throughout the last few years, many resolutions have stayed the same and only shifted places. Perhaps this is because of the culture we live in and the fact that change takes a long time, or maybe it’s just because every year people try their old failed resolutions again.. While not at the top of the list of most popular resolutions, money-based resolutions are often found somewhere in the mix.

In 2015, 25% of people’s resolutions were to “spend less, save more.” This idea increased in the minds of Americans by approximately 5% in 2016; 30% of people made this their resolution. This can be attributed a fair amount to millennials who, in 2016, were beginning their adventure into financial independence and money-managing for perhaps the first time.

And finally, 2018. While not much has changed since 2015 and the years in between, 2018 holds interesting statistics. There is no single most popular resolution, instead there is a three-way tie between “eat better”, “exercise more” and “spend less money”, each at 37%. This tie seems to be a culmination of the earlier years, creating one giant, three-part New Year’s resolution. Yet, further down on the list there is an interesting contrast. A small 3% want to “focus less on appearance,” while a higher 12% want to “focus more on appearance.” No matter which you believe to be morally correct, this dichotomy, along with the ever present want to eat better and exercise more demonstrates the American cultural affinity with the physical appearance.

Since 2015 people have been working to better themselves in a number of ways. Perhaps these don’t always work out (odds say they don’t—80% of people do not keep their resolutions), but the want to be better is encouraging. The desire to “live life to the fullest” or “spend more time with family and friends” or even simply wanting to “read more” or “learn a new skill” are all a nice reminder that people are working to create a better life for themselves, and eventually, a better world. Despite the aspects of New Year’s resolutions that cause one to see the negatives of a world, the constant push for success and love can be infectious.