Resolve, if you will

Nearly half of Filipinos surveyed by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) recently said they had made a New Year’s resolution for 2017. But of the 46 percent who did so, only six percent nationwide (and nine percent in the Visayas) said they had accomplished “all or almost all” of their resolutions.

It makes sense that more of those who were relatively well off made resolutions, than those in groups who had less. One in every four respondents (25 percent) in the ABC socioeconomic classes said they had made resolutions, compared with 19 percent in class E, and 18 percent in class D. You have to be an optimist to make resolutions, and it’s easier to be an optimist when you don’t have to worry about where the next meal or this month’s rent will come from.

Does where one live matter? By area, the biggest group of respondents who said they’d made resolutions came from Mindanao (53 percent). Forty-seven percent from Metro Manila said they resolved to do or change some things this year, compared with 45 percent in the Visayas, and 43 percent in the rest of Luzon.

By education, the biggest group that made resolutions came from college graduates (26 percent). One in five high school graduates (20 percent) said they, too, had made resolutions for 2017, followed by grade school graduates (16 percent), and those who had not finished grade school (14 percent).

What the SWS survey didn’t show was the type of resolutions their respondents had made. Similar surveys in the United States have shown that health and fitness goals—lose weight, quit smoking, drink liquor less, give up red meat at least one day each week—tend to be the most common. Resolutions that involve money are also popular, as are resolutions for self-improvement: watch less TV, read more books, learn a new language, spend less time on social media, stop swearing. (Or at least swear less. By spending less time on social media.)

What’s also not known is why only 46 percent had made resolutions, when hope is at what SWS has called “an all-time high.” When the SWS interviewed 1,200 adults from Dec. 8 to 16, 2017, about 96 percent said they will greet 2018 “with hope rather than with fear.” The previous record was 95 percent, recorded in 2016, 2011, and 2002. Of the 96 percent who are hopeful about the year to come, how many have made resolutions about what to give up, what to learn or what to do better?

Of course, past a certain age we know that what really changes after the New Year’s Eve fireworks is a calendar page and not much else. And that even among the most earnest individuals, few resolutions will make it past March. Ask the person who knows the nearest gym or church best: attendance will probably rise in January, only to dip as the year rolls on.

So what is it that compels some of us to make resolutions, anyway? Whether you think it’s a delusional tendency or willful optimism will depend on your general outlook. (Some will say it’s predictable middle-class striving.) But isn’t it potentially more productive to attempt to change something for the better, and then to plan for how you’re going to get that done?

Imagine, for example, if more drivers resolved to keep intersections clear at all times, even in the absence of traffic lights or enforcers, as part of a personal effort to help restore sanity on our streets. Or if, in the interest of making a different kind of traffic better, more people (trolls included) were to refrain from name-calling, personal attacks, and other nasty behavior online. We make resolutions because we believe ourselves capable of better, deserving of better.

So how will we change in 2018?
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