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‘New Year, New Me’ trend is pointless

'New year, new me' is preposterous and bad for some interesting reasons that are worth grasping - if you’d actually like to make a few lasting changes.

So here we are again: The dreaded time of the year where ‘New Year, New Me’ is captioning every photo, every update and the reason behind doing anything out-of-one’s-ordinary.

I trust we’re all in agreement that ‘New Year, New You’ is preposterous and bad. But it’s preposterous and bad, for some interesting reasons – reasons it’s worth grasping if you’d actually like to make a few lasting changes.

In Oliver Burkeman’s article on this exact trend, he clearly gave reasons as to why the trend is not only a waste of time, but can cause more harm than good as well as lead us into believing that which is not true.

“These all result from one rarely mentioned truth: that by definition, the only person who could successfully bring this New You into being is that feckless, lazy, over-committed, weak-willed, socialmedia-addicted, snack-munching good-for-nothing called Old You,” he said.

“And Old You is the last person you ought to trust when it comes to designing a New You. Consider the facts. For a start, Old You doesn’t currently do any of the things he or she claims will make New You happy and fulfilled. Would you trust a personal trainer who chain-smoked through your sessions and never worked out?”

Moreover, Burkeman added that Old You doesn’t even seem to like himself or herself that much, otherwise a makeover wouldn’t be on the agenda. Clearly, Old You has some issues.

“Lastly, Old You probably has a long track record of trying and failing to implement change – and yet you’re going to trust this shifty character with your future? That’s like taking your car to a mechanic who botches the repair job almost every time,” he said.

“Behind the seductive lure of ‘New Year, New You’ lies another kind of mistake, too: the idea that what we require, in order finally to change, is one last push of willpower. Presumably, the hope is that the ‘January feeling’ of fresh starts and clean slates will provide it.”


Burkeman explained that the assumption is that you’re a bit like a heavy rock, poised on a hill above the valley of achievement, productivity and clean eating. All you need is a concerted push to get you rolling. But the real reason that transformation is hard, is that people (and organisations) have powerful ‘competing commitments’, or reasons not to change.

“To use weakness of will to explain why you take on too much, or overeat, or date disastrous people, is to neglect the fact that those habits make you feel indispensable, or assuage feelings of loneliness, or distract you from inner conflicts you’d rather not address. Technically, physics fans will note, something similar is true of the rock. There are countervailing forces that keep it stuck, beyond the mere absence of an impetus to move,” said Burkeman.

“One useful way to shift perspective is to hand both Old You and New You their marching orders, and narrow your focus to Present You. Don’t resolve to become ‘the kind of person’ who runs, meditates, or listens to your spouse. Instead, just do that thing, once, today. Preferably now.”

It’s tempting to add ‘and then do the same tomorrow, and every day, for ever’ – except that would be to fall back into the New You trap. Lower your sights. Today is the first day of the rest of your week.


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