Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions

As we all vow to do a whole host of things most of us will not follow through on, TIME brings us the resolutions most often forgotten.

Lose Weight and Get Fit:

It’s one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. After a season of way too many cookies, candies and holiday parties, it’s only natural that a vow to lose weight and get fit would follow. Each January, fitness clubs offer deals and promotions to those who want to make good on their resolutions. To those who have been at the gym for the other 11 months of the year, the crowded classes and treadmill lines make the New Year a dreaded time. Luckily for gym rats, research says that 60% of gym memberships go unused and attendance is usually back to normal by mid-February. Why is that? Simple: people are lazy.

Quit Smoking:

So want to quit smoking? Then it’s the time. It yellows our teeth, infiltrates all our clothing, irritates our significant other and charms only those in an ever dwindling crowd of fellow smokers. So what better time than now? Good luck. Only an estimated 15% of people who try to quit manage to stay cigarette-free six months later. True, there are a host of products to help wean us off our nicotine addiction — patches, chewing gum, “e-cigarettes” and even “snus,” a Scandinavian habit of wedging a tobacco capsule up against one’s gum. The last two, though, have fallen afoul of the FDA; some say the agency overly frets about the harmful effects of these products, which, after all, can stop people from indulging in far more carcinogenic cigarettes. In any event, smokers, we have our work cut out for us.

Learn Something New:

We’ve been meaning to learn French. We’d love to play the piano. How great would it be to really know how to cook? We’ll read mastering the Art of French Cooking, and, man, we’ll master it. We can even work on our French at the same time! Resolving to learn something new is exciting: the world is full of fascinating facts, skills and talents. And the process of discovering them, not just the end result, is enjoyable and rewarding.

At least, for a while. Soon we remember there’s a reason we haven’t learned all this yet. French is too hard to pronounce. Piano takes too much practice. Ordering out is just so much easier than cooking. We’ll do it … when we have more time.

Eat Healthier Diet:

During the holidays, everything we consume is pretty much awful for us: eggnog, fudge, chips and dip, cheese balls. 2011 will be different. Gone are the days of nachos and chicken wings at happy hour and belt-busting brunches on Sundays. It’s time to eat healthy. We promise to swap eggs and bagels for granola and oatmeal breakfasts; eat lean, protein-rich salads (nonfat dressing on the side, please) and fruit for lunch; cook fish and brown rice for dinner and serve it up with a side of spinach. It all sounds so good and possible on Jan. 2. The problem is that most people take this resolution too far by forcing themselves onto restricting diets they can’t possibly keep. As the saying goes, try everything in moderation, including moderation. Eat healthy, but allow yourself a treat now and then. Otherwise, it won’t be long before this resolution falls by the weight-side.

Get Out of Debt and Save Money:

After a particularly trying financial year (and the always budget-unfriendly month of December), we might call for a halt to spending and vow to manage their debt more effectively. This is the basic reason for this resolution but we forget this very fast and tell ourselves next time.

Spend More Time with Family:

Everyone’s busy these days, it’s true. But blood is thicker than water, and the beginning of the year is an ideal time to reconnect with family that we haven’t seen in a while. Great idea, right? Then February arrives, reality sets in, and we realize that the reason we didn’t see cousin Jim more often is because he really isn’t that interesting at all. Or that plan to spend more time with the kids? Well, it turns out that work doesn’t magically disappear with the dawning of a new year, and we’re at the office more than ever. It’s a hard promise to keep — no matter how sincere the desire.

 Travel to New Places:

A new year and a new world of opportunities to explore — and places, too. Travel of some sort is on almost everyone’s agenda, and some of the first things we tend to think of in a new year are those exotic destinations we’d hope to seek out. Take that road trip to rugged Nova Scotia, ride a hot-air balloon over the strange terrain of Cappadocia, go on our first ocean cruise. Or don’t. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, budgets are tight and staycations are in. Besides, not traveling spares all the headache of planning, applying perhaps for a visa, fretting over getting scammed in some foreign locale and getting someone to tend to our plants and puppy. There’s a reason why travel and travail sound so similar.

Be Less Stressed:

It’s not a bad idea to resolve to be less stressed. Even without the extra craziness presented by the holidays, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by work and family obligations, to get carried away by an existential crisis or to create a crisis out of wondering whether or not we bought the right color handbag. Less stress can make us healthier and happier, so in the coming year we’ll light soothing candles and take more bubble baths. We’ll quit searching for more things to worry about and find our zen instead. But this is the resolution we forget very easily.


It may be a new year, but there are still old problems in the world. To start out on the right foot, we may resolve to lend a helping hand. We can help build a house, care for an animal, distribute food to the hungry, tutor a student. Volunteering could be the resolution that keeps on giving — to us and to others. But even the most compassionate among us can fall back on our commitments. Finding time all too often proves harder than finding money and many would-be volunteers will probably end up writing checks instead. We might want to rephrase this resolution to include the broader “help others.”

Drink Less:

After the morning of Jan. 1, it’s not surprising we probably wish we drank less. The question is whether that resolve will last for the other 364 days of the year. Drinking less is undoubtedly good for us: it’s better for our health, our wallet and probably our reputation. Then why do we keep on boozing? Folk more learned than we may point to modern science for definitive answers, but we prefer those Greco-Roman ancients who proclaimed “In vino veritas” — “In wine [and whiskey, vodka, gin and beer], there is truth.” They said it, not we.