New Year's resolutions becoming rarer

Fewer people are making the promises


Published: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 at 11:12 p.m.

Ricky Kirby, a 50-year-old Alachua County farmhand, wants nothing more than to "live another day and stop smoking" in 2004.

Gainesville Police Department Officer Leslie B. White, on the other hand, hopes to spend more time with family, a goal she says she'll keep if she can just "make the time."

But Eric Toombs, 46, a McGurn Management Co. employee, is more realistic about his New Year's resolution.

"I don't have one this year," Toombs said Wednesday, grinning as he washed windows at Union Street Station in downtown Gainesville.

"Every time I make one," whether it be to save money or lose weight, "it doesn't work out half the time."

And judging from a national poll released Tuesday, Toombs is hardly alone.

Since 1997, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, a research center at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has compiled data on the nation's attitudes toward end-of-the-year goal-setting.

The results from this year's survey, which asked 1,004 adults nationwide, "What is it that you resolve to do or not to do in the New Year?" found that 34 percent of adults planned to make a resolution this year, down from 39 percent last year and a 10-percentage-point drop from 2001, when 44 percent of adults contacted said they intended to set personal goals for the year ahead.

Women were the most likely to utter self-improvement declarations in 2003, the institute found, with nearly two-thirds of females younger than 35 contacted saying they planned to; 41 percent of men in the same age group said they too would make New Year's resolutions by Jan. 1.

Finding a better job, becoming a better person and losing weight were among the top goals for Americans, the survey found.

Other major resolutions included quitting smoking, better management of money and exercising more.

And while all are noble goals, the drop in resolution-making charted by the Marist Institute poll suggests that planning - and honoring - annual resolutions is becoming something of a forgotten ritual.

Which might not be such a bad thing, area behavioral experts contend.

"There is probably a positive value in setting dates to start on resolutions or efforts," such as losing weight or quitting smoking, said Ernest Bordini, executive director of Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida.

"There's a lot of research that suggests that if you announce a goal publicly and you make a commitment, you're more likely to follow through."

"But since the nature of our New Year's resolutions are behaviors that can only be changed with time - whether you make it with part of a New Year's resolution or some other way - those are more difficult to maintain," Bordini said.

"Personally, the only New Year's resolution I was able to keep was to make no more New Year's resolutions. It's the only one I've kept for seven years."

Still, despite inherent obstacles to honoring year-ending resolutions, some Gainesville-area residents insisted they remained committed to bettering themselves in 2004.

Gainesville City Commissioner Ed Braddy, one of the few city or county officials working Wednesday, had a host of goals he said he planned to carry into the new year, from assembling Christmas toys for his kids to exercising more.

He even had a resolution for city government.

"We could all resolve to conduct our meetings in a timely fashion and be done by a decent hour," Braddy said jokingly, referring to the commission's weekly meetings now notorious for stretching into the early-morning hours. "But that may be more challenging than losing weight or giving up cigarettes."

Greg Bruno can be reached at 374-5026 or greg.bruno@ gvillesun.com.

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