New Year’s Resolutions: A User’s Guide

In North America, the top three New Year’s Resolutions are; lose weight, get out of debt and get organized.  These are really good resolutions for fat, sloppy people who’ve maxed out their credit cards but for the rest of us, they’re useless.  Trust me: if you make any one of these resolutions — as they stand — you’re doomed.  You’ve got about as much chance of keeping them as getting bitten by a Forks, Washington vampire and living happily ever after.  The problem is not the resolution — in actual fact, most North American need to drop a few kilos — it’s the madness in the method.  Most people approach New Year’s Resolutions as if they’ve just been convicted of a major crime and the judge is about to pronounce sentence.  They’re a penance.  That’s not the way to do it.  Here are a few simple rules that will almost guarantee resolution success – unless, of course, you are a fat, sloppy, smoker with eighteen overdue credit cards.  If that’s the case, you need more help than I can provide.

Be Specific – “I’m going to lose weight” doesn’t mean anything.  In fact, you probably just said that to get the girlfriend off your back.  Losing weight is way to blurry to even think about.  A New Year’s Resolution should never span the universe in a single bound like that.  It needs to be pinpoint specific.  The difference between “I’m going to lose weight” and “I’m going to lose twenty pounds” is huge. One is a massive undertaking, lost in a vague notion; the other is a simple task, infinitely doable – especially in twelve months.  New Year’s Resolutions need to be that specific with a measurable result.

Define the Result – What do you want at the end?  “I’m going to quit smoking” is not a result; it’s a task.  The result is you’re not going to be coughing up a kidney every time you play anything more strenuous than darts.  That’s a good result.  Given their druthers, people will naturally sit on their asses.  The only way to get them moving is to show them the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  This is even truer (if that’s possible) when you’re having an internal dialogue.  You need to clearly define what you’re going to get at the end of the resolution and keep that firmly in mind.  Otherwise, all you’re doing is talking to yourself.

Be Reasonable — If you owe Visa half the national debt of Italy, it’s not reasonable to expect you’re going to get out of debt in 2012.  Your New Year’s Resolutions need a chance to survive.  A more reasonable resolution would be, “I’m going to pay off just one credit card, chop it into little pieces, bake it into a brownie and give it to my banker next Christmas.”  This is a reasonable resolution, and it’s certainly out there on the motivation front.

Have a Plan – Don’t fall into the trap of making a New Year’s Resolution without any idea of how you’re going to do it.  “I’m going to get organized” means a lot more that finding out what’s growling in the back of the refrigerator.  You need to know what you’re going to do with that thing once you haul it out of there.  Small is better, so try downsizing the tasks: first the fridge — finish it — then start on the closet.  If you try to do everything at once, you’re just going to be overwhelmed and sink back into the debris.  Besides, if you’re even moderately normal you’re going to need a lot of experience before you tackle the basement or the garage.

Go Public – Tell everybody what you’re doing.  There’s always some jerk who’s going to “I told you so!” if you’re still puffing the Marlboros next Christmas, but take the chance.  Everybody needs a fan club, and you’d be surprised how many people are in your corner.  It helps to know that there are people out there cheering for you.

Bring a Friend – It’s a lot easier to do anything if you’ve got company.  There’s no rule that says resolutions are solitary activities.  “We resolve to read two books a month” makes it easier to read at least one.

Have Fun – The reason we make resolutions is because we want to accomplish something.  They’re not punishment for eating cake, or taking the elevator or buying shoes.  They’re how we want to be in the future.  So why not have some fun getting there?

Happy New Year!


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