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!


New Year’s Resolutions

I love New Year’s Resolutions.  They are the poster children for trust in the future and confidence in the self.  Besides, the people who make New Year’s Resolutions have a distinct advantage over the hillbillies down the block who don’t.  At the very least, we have some idea that things can get better, whereas Ma and Pa Kettle, three doors down, have consigned themselves to their fate.  It’s kinda like waking up in the morning feeling just as good as you’re going to feel all day: not a very happy thought, but some people condemn themselves to it.  Personally, I’ve always imagined that, not only is the glass half full, but if you work at it, you can fill it up, if you so desire.  Why not try?  What’s it going to hurt?  And the end of the year is a perfect opportunity to take a crack at it.  While we’re slacking around, eating turkey sandwiches between Christmas and New Year’s, we have the time to give it three deep ones, pause for a minute and see what we’re about.  At this point, some people take a look over the horizon and say I can get there if I do thus and so, and some people don’t.  But here’s why you should.

When John Lennon said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” he was being wildly optimistic.  In actual fact, for most people, life is what happens to them when they’re sitting on their cans doing nothing.  “Come day, go day, God’ll bring Sunday” is a good philosophy if you’re on Death Row in a Texas prison, but for the rest of us, the future holds a little bit more promise.  Yet people, for the most part, don’t treat the future like a precious non-renewable resource.  They squander it, then wake up one morning and wonder what the hell happened.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Let me demonstrate.

Nobody (except maybe totally rich people) ever walks into a travel agent, slaps down their credit card and says. “I don’t care where.  I don’t care when.  Just give me a ticket!”  It isn’t done.  Even the most wild and crazy traveller usually has something in mind before pulling out the Visa card — notably, where, when and for how long.  Not only that, but if the airlines would quit scamming us with their phantom advertised prices, we’d probably be able to guess how much it’s going to cost us as well.  These are the basic requirements of travel.  Reasonable people follow these steps.  Anybody who doesn’t, runs the risk of ending up on an eight hour tour of the Lego factory in Billund, Denmark.  And although that may sound exciting, most people, outside the Lego community, are not willing to risk their limited time and money betting on it.  The fact is people plan their vacations.  The irony is they spend more time trying to figure out what they’re going to do with those three weeks every year than they do with the other forty-nine.

Everybody knows the cliché that life is a journey.  Therefore, New Year’s Resolutions are just a pumped up vacation plan.  All they say is, I want to go here this year.  I want to do these things because it’s going to be fun, or informative, or I’m going to feel better.  The problem most people (who aren’t incurable hillbillies) have is they make the wrong resolutions.  Then they get pissed off with themselves for not keeping them.  That’s not the way it should be.  You should make New Year’s Resolutions as the first quick and dirty signposts that point to the most important part of the future – your own.

Friday: How to make the right resolutions and how to keep them.