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Elkin Luis, Professor of School of Education and Psychology. University of Navarra

This is not a article on how to keep your New Year's resolutions.

Fri, 27 Dec 2019 14:32:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper


In these days there is something else that will unite us all beyond last-minute shopping and eating. And that is, have you already thought about how much better people you want to be in 2020? Have you already reviewed those promises or resolutions you made at the end of 2018-beginning of 2019? Spoiler: this is not a article on how to keep your New Year's resolutions.

If you have noticed, you are more motivated and more likely to make good resolutions in this year that is coming to an end, but whether they will be fulfilled or not is another story. And this ability to project into the future that human beings have, responds to the fact that today and now, we are more optimistic than pessimistic. Let's take an example that is usually repeated every year and that generally does not usually have much success in being fulfilled: today, still in 2019, I propose to do more exercise in 2020. I am motivated to make this effort. However, this is repeated daily, if not, think of all the things you set out at night to do the next morning and how many you actually ended up doing.

For some experts, the line that differentiates the optimist (which is the engine to act, venture and innovate) from the pessimist, is not in the ability to value the good, but on the contrary, it is in ignoring the bad. Therefore, when projecting into the future, people are often captured by optimism, which at times leads us to set goals that are poorly adjusted (year-end resolutions) to the real situations in which they will be fulfilled (what happens in January). In fact, there are reasons to believe that excessive optimism makes us take unnecessary risks in our decisions.

When these situations occur in which the objectives are not achieved, pessimism (not as bad as it seems) wins a battle against optimism; because in this new 'today' and 'now' the circumstances of the person are no longer the same as at the beginning. Here, we can find ourselves facing several scenarios. Some will not even try to fulfill these resolutions (net pessimists). Others, more optimistic but using pessimism to be more cautious, make an effort, work, to try to incorporate new habits. If the latter do not feel that they have started to keep their promises, they will start to get frustrated and conclude that they are not good at exercising, so why spend any more of their valuable time trying?

The 'magic' rule that some will look for is plain and simple: let's adjust our expectations, and to do so, let's think about what the ultimate good of these goals is. The ultimate good of exercising is not to lose pant size or conform to the standards of beauty that society dictates. The ultimate good is health and for that I don't have to spend two hours every day of the week on the machines at the gym or spinning, if I've already proven that I'm not hooked on that. Let's look at the whole range of possibilities that will get you on the train to take care of yourself: leave the car at home or park further away and walk to work, run or even dance (which for this time of Christmas excesses comes in handy). Let's try options before discarding them directly and include them as habits to ensure a desired and healthy lifestyle. Remember: an optimist with a slight pessimistic tinge is able to better adjust expectations and therefore, make more realistic goals.