7 Rules For Resolutions

happy-new-yearIn North America, the top three New Year’s Resolutions are lose weight, get out of debt, and get organized.  These are really good resolutions, but  if you make any of them — as they stand — you’re doomed.

Most people approach New Year’s Resolutions as if they’ve just been convicted of a major crime — and the punishment starts January One.  That’s not the way to do it.  Here are a few simple rules that will almost guarantee resolution success – unless, like me — your New Year’s Resolution is “Quit Procrastinating.”  In that case, we can do all this — tomorrow.

Be Specific – “I’m going to lose weight” doesn’t mean anything.  30 grams?  80 kilos?  A New Year’s Resolution should never leap into the universe like that.  It needs pinpoint accuracy.  The difference between “I’m going to lose weight” and “I’m going to lose 5 kilos by Easter” is huge.  One is a vague notion and the other is “Freeze!  Put your hands in the air and step away from the pie.”.

What’s the Reward? – Let’s face it, without a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, ordinary folks like us tend to sit on our asses, looking at the pretty colours.  So when you make a New Year’s Resolution, you need to show that inner donkey of yours a carrot.  Quite simply, “I’m going to lose 5 kilos by Easter because the reality is fat bastards only have great sex in the movies.”

Be Reasonable — Your New Year’s Resolutions need a fighting chance to survive.  For example, 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 12 months.  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 bloodsucking banker next Christmas.”

Have a Plan – Turn “I’m going to get organized” into “I’m going to haul whatever is green and growling out of the refrigerator and throw it away.”  Small is better.  Downsize 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.

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.

Bring a Friend – It’s a lot easier to do anything if you’ve got company.  There’s no rule that says New Year’s Resolutions are solitary activities.

And finally, the #1 Rule:

Have Fun – Always remember a New Year’s Resolution isn’t punishment. If it feels that way, don’t make it in the first place.

Happy New Year — Good Luck!

New Year’s Resolutions

CavemenEvery year, at about this time, I take a pen (remember those?) and a piece of paper and write:  “New Year’s Resolutions” and whatever year is bursting on the horizon.  I write #1 and then I write “Quit Procrastinating.”  There’s always a bunch of other stuff, but at my age most of that crap doesn’t matter.  However, I’m convinced, that maybe — just maybe — if I write it down, in the new year, I will actually quit procrastinating.  That’s the power of New Year’s Resolutions.  It could happen.   New Year’s Resolutions are that wonderful idea that we can somehow be better — if we just try.  And we can.  Primitive people knew this and acted accordingly.

Back in caveman days, in Europe, there were two groups of people: Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal.  They were both basic knuckle-draggers, but there was one important difference.  The Cro-Magnon people survived and the Neanderthals didn’t.  Why?  I’m convinced that the Cro-Magnon understood the concept of improvement.  It’s pretty far-fetched to consider a bunch of our primitive ancestors sitting around the cave making plans to pay off the credit cards, but in caveman terms, I think that’s exactly what they did.  Meanwhile, the Neanderthal hillbillies down the block were picking their noses and wondering why they never seemed to get ahead.  In essence, the reason the Cro-Magnon people are the roots of our family tree and the Neanderthals are bones in a museum is that the Cro-Magnons learned how to do things better.  And they realized there was this thing called tomorrow.

Here’s the deal: it’s December 31st, no year (they didn’t have them, back then.)  Grog, the Cro-Magnon, is sitting around the cave.  Mrs. Grog and the kids are huddled over in the corner, shivering and bitchin’ because it’s cold.  Gender equality wasn’t an issue in those days, so it’s Grog’s job to go out in the snow to get wood for the fire.  Grog grunts and groans and hollers and stomps around, but he does it; it’s a matter of survival.  When everybody’s toasty warm again, Grog is still thinking about how much he hates going out in the cold to get wood to keep those useless kids warm.  However, he’s just a little bit smarter than the average Cro-Magnon, so he understands that the snow will eventually go away and wood gathering will be a lot easier.  But — and this is way more important — he also realizes that the snow is cunning, and it always comes back.  Ding dong!  The light goes on!   Grog has put two and two together and says to himself, “Wait a minute!  If I get those useless kids to gather wood all summer, when it’s easy, and pile it over in the corner of the cave, I won’t have to go out in the cold to get it when the snow comes back.”  So Grog “resolves” to  make the kids gather wood next year.  Then, when winter rolls around again the Cave Family Grog looks pretty good.  Everybody’s warm and Grog has a pile more time and energy to do other things like hunting.  The family eats better and more often.  At some point, Grog’s neighbours are going to see this and either figure it out or say, “Hey, Grog! You lookin’ fat, dumb and happy.  What’s your secret?”  Now the whole tribe is on the road to evolution because Grog’s kids are going to grow up and make their kids gather wood, too — “just like I did when I was your age.” From there, it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets the brilliant idea that it would be kinda cool if a guy from Ohio took a stroll on the moon.

That’s why we make resolutions and why — every year — I write them down.  It’s not that I keep them (or even remember some of them) but we all have to try: the survival of our species depends on it.