Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Why New Year's Resolutions Suck

If you've been alive the last two weeks, and will continue to be alive in the upcoming two weeks, you'll see a lot of stuff on TV, online, and in print about the pressure to make – and keep – the bane of January's existence: New Year's Resolutions.

I hate New Year's Resolutions. Maybe it's because I've never kept one. My past promises of developing six-pack abs, writing the great American (or Russian or Chilean for that matter) novel and learning how to make the perfect tiramisu have all fallen by the wayside, leaving me a little round in the middle, novel-less, and forced to eat store-bought cookies for my desserts. So, part of my hatred is born out of failure.

But, most of my disdain for 365-day commitments (or 366-day, for this year) has to do with the simple concept of forcing ourselves into a yearlong box. Sure, it's important to plan well into the future; things like retirement, higher education, and home buying all demand it. But, for whatever reason, whether it is psychological, sociological or philosophical, so many of us can't come to the point where we can actually keep a well intentioned promise made with the hope that a new calendar offers.

We try – oh, do we try! But, we can never seem to turn our best ambitions into long-term success. As soon as January is in the rearview mirror and we're racing quickly towards February and March, we slip up, fall down, forget, misstep and fail. And then we stop trying. That pound we shed during week one is back at some point during week 12. No matter how organized we got ourselves by MLK Day, it's a distant memory of our former self come Valentine's Day.

But time and again, we trick and punish ourselves into thinking that this time will be different. Like fans of a perennial cellar-dweller of a football team, we continue to buy season tickets to what so very quickly becomes front row seats to disappointment.

And we stop and wait until the ball drops again to dream of being different. And nothing ultimately gets done. We stay in our ruts, forget what it was we aspired to be, and hope that our conscience doesn't remind us for too long that we failed.

Therefore, in an effort to make us all become better people by having a better chance at accomplishing our greatest hopes and dreams in order to make the world a better place, I resolve to get rid of New Year's Resolutions. And, in their place, I offer up New Day's Resolutions.

So, instead of trying to forecast into late summer your intent to lose some pounds, resolve instead to eat healthy today. Forget about how you didn't do that so well yesterday. Don't fret about whether or not you'll do so tomorrow. Simply wake up today and make a resolution to choose the healthy option at the lunch counter. Tell yourself you won't take your stomach up on the offer to fill it with cookies close to bedtime. Promise that you'll stop by the gym on the way home from work.

Congratulations. You just made (and kept) a New Day Resolution. You're successful. You just changed your life today.

Now, do it again when you wake up tomorrow. If you mess up and eat three sleeves of Oreos, don't worry – the experiment isn't over and you don't have to trash your hopes of slimming down along with the evidence of your black-and-white binge. Just start over tomorrow, planning the next 24 hours.

A year is just a string of days that we lump together for the purposes of measurement. Without the daily, we'd have no yearly. So embrace the power that a new day holds. Dream about what all can be accomplished with each and every new day.

And skip those ideas folks have for making your resolutions stick or about being serious this time. Those recommendations will disappear from your psyche just as quickly as your commitment to actually use that gym membership will. Instead, take everything a day at a time – especially your biggest dreams for personal and communal change.

String together enough kept New Day's Resolutions and you'll have an incredibly stellar New Year's Resolution after all.

Comments (5)

Anonymous

7:10 AM

I usually resolve things that are easy to keep -- like I resolve to read Sam's blog once a week. Carol Pittman

Hey, Sam. Really love this post. Glad Rebecca linked to it. It reminds me of what I recently wrote about avoiding the danger of new.

I hate so much how New Year's is so charged with this false promise of change - it's like we're all racing to hold on until we break. Because we will break. And then it's sweet release to get back to the way we were. Game over. Change averted.

This idea of New Day's resolutions is actually MORE DIFFICULT (and thus more rewarding) than New Year's resolutions, becuase they're more consistent. And more forgiving. And forgivness in the sense that you get to move on and continue to improve is just too much for most of us. We'd much prefer the alternative of being able to calmly tread back to where we were, like everyone else. But when we have permission to forgive ourselves the misadventures and stay on the path to self improvement - that means we really have to commit to change.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Andrew B. Clark

8:42 AM

"If you mess up and eat three sleeves of Oreos, don't worry – the experiment isn't over and you don't have to trash your hopes of slimming down along with the evidence of your black-and-white binge. Just start over tomorrow,"

Perfect!

Tiffany Monhollon pointed me to your post as it was similar to the one that I'd posted recently (http://brandchef.blogspot.com/2007/12/happy-new-year-2008-no-really.html). And I couldn't agree more.

If you plan to change your life, or at least part of it, as a New Year's Resolution, then the pressure to see results (at least for me) is so daunting that it becomes work... and I HATE work.

Small steps. Little achievements. Big Success!

Great post, Sam.

Keep Cooking!
Andrew

An encouraging post, to say the least! I haven't made resolutions in years. I've managed to completely avoid the topic. But I really like this every day concept. I am going to try to incorporate this into my every day retreat time (concept: TheSecretLifeOfKat.com) which I started today. Thanks for sharing! Happy trails!!

wow your new year resolutions sucks. the trick is promise some little real achievements not a bunch of impossible thing.