Happy New Year! If you’re like most of us, you’ve made yourself a humdinger of a list of resolutions. And if you’re like most of us, you’re way too optimistic about how well you’ll keep those resolutions. After you’ve worked out today (biggest workout day of the year) and sworn you’d leave the peanut butter Buckeyes to the kids, you’re focused and on a roll, right?
New Year’s Resolutions fall by the wayside because they aren’t set out as what they really are. They are Goals, and they are meant to Change A Behavior, often one we only reluctantly want to change. People attach a magical significance to the new year as a way of creating new habits and behaviors, but not really thinking through the steps you need to take to get to your resolution.
And sad to say, New Year’s resolutions, like those passed in government, are often insignificant declarations of meaningless bloviation served up with a side of self-important inactivity. Congress passes resolutions all the time, for things like designating October as “Work and Family Month” or declaring some day in July to be “Parent’s Day” or performing a congressional high-five to the Packers for beating the Steelers in last year’s Superbowl (and lo, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in mah hometown that day).
No doubt, these things are important to the groups that worked to get recognition from a national governing body, and the recognition will help these groups do more of whatever it is they’re all trying to do…but Congress itself doesn’t have to do a thing beyond showing up for five minutes while the roll is called. It’s not Congress who’ll have to get out and work in October (hell, do they work in the other 11 months?), and it’s not Congress that’s going to have to hit the fifty-yard line against what might be the most amazingly gymnastic bunch of Bengals I’ve seen in many a year (it’s a nice change to see them gain some notoriety for something besides getting thrown in the drunk tank again). Although I think I’d pay to see the US Congress on the gridiron. Or better yet, rugby. I’d love to see my own congresscritters sober up and suit up and hit the field–any field. And then have Nike make a slow-motion montage of tackles and ball-shots I could watch over and over again everytime some new fuckery comes out of DC.
If you want your New Year’s resolutions to mean anything, you need to put real, concrete work behind them. Just like any goal-setting or to-do list you’ll find on any other day of the year, you’re gonna need a few things:
- A Plan. Don’t leave on a road trip without a map. Put together the plan that specifies exactly what you want to change and make sure it’s something that you can control. “Winning the Oscar” isn’t in your control. I’m sorry, but there are no Members of The Academy reading this (and if there are…seriously, start making ’em out of chocolate. Everybody thinks they are already and I’m sure some of those actresses could use a snack before they blow away, mmkay?), so your plan cannot include an Oscar because it’s out of your control. It can, however, include not acting in any movies directed by Michael Bay (sorry, dude. Asplodey pretty, but you ain’t Oscar material).
- Action. Don’t think you’re going to get away with making change without having something to do in order to make that change. It takes 28 days to make a habit, so your first week of working out is only the first step. But don’t look at that calendar and despair, either. “Get fit” is a great New Year’s Resolution to abandon somewhere around the tenth of January, so break it down into real, concrete things you can do. “Work out three times this week” is a NYR you can get behind and accomplish. “Work out 3 times a week for a month” is something you can get behind. “Work out 4x a week for the following month” is something you have a real, concrete goal for. “Write 1000 words for 3 days a week” can be tricky–you’re making plans for this week, yes, but you’re also making plans for the other 51 weeks in the year, and one or two of those might get taken up with Life Happening.
- Lines. Dead and Finish. If you’ve got forever to do it, you’ll never start. Set yourself some good, reasonable deadlines for each of your action tasks. And give yourself the most important line of all–a Finish Line. Yes, changing ourselves usually requires a continuing effort, but having a mile marker set in place that will tell you “ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED” will keep you going and give you a way to measure your success. If you resolve to lose ten pounds this year, then when you unlock your achievement, have yourself a reward (and no, not an extreme cake party, either–get a massage or buy a new skirt…especially you fellas, because there just aren’t enough guys walking around in skirts this year and I think we could start a trend, no? Guys in kilts are sexay).
New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to fall by the wayside as long as you recognize that they are Change. Change takes hard work and focus and dedication to the change itself, as well as tangible goals and tangible rewards.