OPINION7 February 2020

2020: the year of change – or more of the same?

Brexit Opinion UK

Walnut Unlimited’s Michal Matukin shares some views on which New Year’s resolutions are likely to stick and which ones are wishful thinking. 

person running outdoors stopping to tie shoe laces

We all know the truth about New Year’s resolutions. While we explicitly claim we will do great things and take over the world, deep down we are usually anticipating some level of failure... aren’t we?

With this in mind, we applied reaction time testing to some common New Year’s resolutions to discover whether there are any participants truly believe in and understand what people are least confident about fulfilling.

Whenever questions about emotional attitudes are asked, reaction time testing can harvest additional outputs. It allows us to measure not just what people say, but also the certainty of their response. 

The results we’ve gathered show how strongly our environment, events around us and the media influence personal aspects of our lives, including New Year’s resolutions. Having said that, we can start by stating that over 80% of respondents believed that 2020 will be a year of change – most of us feel something is shifting and in motion. But what will change, and do we have a clear view on our ability to execute these changes?

Which resolutions are we most certain about?

The strongest beliefs are related to spending – simply, we are planning to manage our money better in 2020. We are also certain that we can change our eating habits and physical activities to start a healthier life. 

While people remain confident that they are going to change these aspects of their lives, when asked about dieting and the reduction of alcohol consumption, attitudes are much more polarised. Around 40% of people said that they will go on a diet and they truly meant it, but the remaining 60% said no and they were equally certain about this answer.

With alcohol, the situation is the same. It seems that even among those who really believe they will change their health habits are the people who won’t give up alcohol. We also found that above 60% declared they will read more books and are quite certain this is true. Equally, more than 70% of people are confident they will not be changing their job.

Which New Year’s resolutions are just lip service?

The results also revealed some wishful thinking, where doubts and uncertainty are almost palpable. The highest explicit score we observed was that 2020 will be a good year for time with friends and family. Over 85% of us agree with this statement, but unfortunately, this attitude is not supported on an emotional level. It’s possible we do not believe it likely to happen, or maybe there are too many unknowns in our relationships.

Another wishful thinking attitude is focused on working to be a better person in 2020. Declaratively, obviously we agree, and we will tell it to anyone who wants to listen. Yet, on an emotional level, we have some doubts.

The research also found that there is one clear area to which we cling on a conscious level, but completely do not believe on an emotional one – we have serious doubts that we can stop wasting time with people who don't value us. On a rational level, it is something that was declared by over 80% of participants, but almost no one was truly confident in that.  

…and what about our strongest doubts?

Lastly, we asked if 2020 will bring a better quality of life for people in the UK. The rational results show that 54% think it will and 46% think it won’t. However, on an emotional level, both groups had some serious doubts about their answers. No matter how they voted, the implicit beliefs indicate worries about these changes and uncertainty over the future. Could looming political events and what feels like chaos reported in the media on a daily basis be skewing our capacity to believe in a brighter future?

We can only hope that 2020 will be prosperous, and continue to work on achieving our goals, whether we believe we really will or not.

Michal Matukin is head of neuroscience at Walnut Unlimited