Happy New Year JSHAP readers! I really have never been one to make a New Year’s resolution. Perhaps it is a subconscious defence mechanism, as I anticipate I would be in the population of people who don’t meet their resolutions. But, as a busy academic and veterinarian, I have been thinking about what a reasonable resolution for me should or could be for general self-improvement. In today’s fast-paced society of activities with high time demands, deadlines, work demands, and social pressures, I wonder how all of you establish a healthy work-life balance. Do you make a New Year’s resolution? Are you (or people in general) willing to share resolution stories?
This tweaked my statistical curiosity to see if there was any information available about how many people make a resolution, who sticks to it, and what those resolutions might be. Not surprisingly, the Internet came through for me and I found some numbers – my disclaimer here is that these statistics are likely full of bias, confounding, and other statistical no-no’s, but I thought it would still be fun to look at them. Some of the top 10 resolutions, as listed by Statistic Brain Research Institute,1 include the following: tame the bulge (lose weight), tame the clutter (get organized), feed the brain (learn something new), spend more time with family, and help others. I couldn’t find a list that specifically stated work less or maintain a healthy work-life balance – perhaps spending more time with family is a proxy for work less?
Then the statistics get more interesting. The same report states that almost half of Americans usually make a New Year’s resolution, with 38% reporting that they never or infrequently make a resolution. Only 8% of people reported being successful at achieving their resolution, with repeat offenders (people who repeatedly fail at achieving their resolution) at 24%. Apparently 39% of people in their twenties are more likely to achieve their resolution each year, versus the 14% of successful resolution keepers in their fifties. Even though I have been saying “I am 29 and holding” for many years now, I am not in the age category with high success rate for achieving a resolution. So how can I be successful at keeping a resolution if I make one?
I just finished a series of lectures with the first-year DVM students. When I teach the health management cycle in our food-producing animal lectures, I talk about helping producers make SMART goals: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I think most of you would agree that this is a successful strategy when counselling a client through a farm-health or production problem. I thought that this model could be applied to resolution-making and resolution attainability and perhaps then to general self-improvement. I am actually writing this editorial in November 2015 (trying to meet our publisher’s deadline), so I am going to think further about making a New Year’s resolution and applying a SMART goal (or goals) to increase the likelihood of my success. Perhaps making a New Year’s resolution is not for you. But I am going to give it serious consideration this year.
All the best to all of you for 2016!
1. Statistics Brain Research Institute. Available at http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/. Accessed 18 November 2015.
Terri O’Sullivan, DVM, PhD