The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Make a to-don’t list

By Arthur C. Brooks

16 Mar 2023 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

Resolutions often fail. That is why in this article, The Atlantic suggests we should take a slightly less traditional approach - deciding what it is that we want to avoid doing.

How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Perhaps that’s a sore subject. Resolutions usually fail, sometimes even in the first few months of the year (one study found that half dissolved after three months), so odds are good that yours have too. If so, don’t feel too bad! Clearly, you’re in good company.

If your resolutions have become a statistic, let me suggest a new approach for the remainder of the year: Create a list of anti-resolutions. These are things you want to not do this year, such as spending time with particular people who don’t bring out your best, or going places you don’t enjoy. That might sound a little too, well, negative, but it’s actually an approach to life improvement based on an ancient philosophical concept known as the via negativa.

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