Resolutions Aren’t For Everyone

God bless Gretchen Rubin. She’s corroborated my excuse theory that resolutions aren’t for me…and maybe aren’t for you. Longtime Tonic readers know that I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I think they’re arbitrary and artificial and that most people don’t keep them. How many of us are back to eating dessert by January 19th? Raise your hand if by February 8th you’re scanning the fine print, looking for an out clause in your gym membership. Will you organize your desk by March 1st as you promised…or will you eventually rationalize that it’s more of a “spring cleaning” task best left for April?


Rubin, an author and expert on human nature, thinks that we all fall into four personality types when it comes to rules: The Upholder accepts internal and external rules. They meet deadlines, follow doctors’ orders …keep a New Year's resolution. The Questioner thinks about rules and accepts them only if they make sense. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment. The Rebel flouts rules, from outside or inside. They resist control. Give a rebel a rule, and the rebel will want to do the very opposite thing. The Obliger accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.


According to Rubin; “An Upholder can train with a trainer or exercise on her own; a Questioner can do either if he thinks it makes sense; a Rebel will do neither, because the fact that she has an appointment or an item on her to-do list makes her want to disobey; an Obliger can meet a trainer, but can't get to the gym on his own.”


Of course nobody keeps or breaks the rules all the time. These are innate tendencies that generally govern our behaviour. I think most people act contextually adapting to the situation even given their tendencies. Still, an Upholder doesn’t really need a New Year’s resolution to facilitate change. They already have the internal discipline to do so whenever they want. The Questioner will take that regular 20 minute daily walk, but only after satisfying themselves that there’s an absolute benefit to doing so. The Obliger might be able to lose weight, but not on their own. They’ll need the external structure of a program, because left to their own devices they won’t achieve their goals. And the Rebel…let’s just hope they have a good metabolism.


How do you see yourself on the continuum? Are you like my Upholder wife, who has the discipline to pass on dessert, work out in the basement on her own, or go to group strength class with me? Or are you more of a Rebel/Questioner like me. I sneak food late at night. I’m off of my mindfulness exercises, and swearing like a sailor approximately 5 minutes into Toronto rush-hour traffic. But I’ve also mustered the fortitude to both attend and lead group fitness classes for years because I’ve come to learn how important they are to my overall health. BTW…neither of us have made resolutions.


Whoever you are, the January issue is full of helpful healthy information for your consumption. Megan Horsley has 7 ideas to help you get more vegetables into your diet, if you’re so inclined;  Carlyle Jansen opines on the role of self-acceptance in gaining sexual confidence; and if despite this note you’re still really intent on New Year’s self improvement, Rod Macdonald has 10 questions for you to consider if you want to make change. As always, please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss anything you’ve read in this note or this issue of the magazine.

Categories: Publisher’s Note