Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, January 1, 2010

How to Safely Approach New Year’s Resolutions: 7 Strategies

New Year’s resolutions can be treacherous to those of us struggling with procrastination, perfectionism, and all such manner of action-stopping tics.  I note that the first page of my new calendar includes a deep-breathing instruction, probably for that reason.

With tongue-only-partly-in-cheek, I submit the following list of ways to deal with this annual challenge.

1.  Don’t risk it!

    At 12:02 this morning, our soon-to-be nineteen-year-old exemplified this stance, announcing that he would not be making any New Year’s resolutions, since not keeping them would be just one more way of feeling bad about himself.  "Statistics show"--and who are we to argue--that most of us won't keep whatever resolutions we make beyond the first few weeks of this new year.  If you've been burned before by having to confront yet another self-disappointment, this may be the way to go.

    2.  Play the odds

    Make so many New Year’s Resolutions that you are bound to keep some, even accidentally.  If this is your strategy-of-choice, go ahead and throw in some freebies, like try to live through the year, or don't join the Polar Bear Club.  (You could check that one off today!)

   3.  Make only one resolution

   Though the decision-making involved in getting this one right may be pretty intimidating (world peace?  cure for cancer?...), this strategy offers the appeal of simplicity, and might be a boon to those of us struggling with short-term memory.

    4.  Resolve to keep doing what you already do

        This approach relies on inertia for its success.  Though it should be noted that, as the recent adage goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  Unless you are a phenomenally successful and self-actualized person, this may not yield a satisfying result.  There is probably such a thing as setting your standards too low.

       5.  Recycle a previous list

     Resurrecting old resolutions can save time.  This is stuff you already know you  wanted to do.  And those perfectionists among us who have difficulty accepting failure get another chance to redeem ourselves.  However, if you decide to go this way, you run the risk of trying to board ships that have already left the harbor.

 6.  Use the most popular resolutions

     Several sources I checked agree that the most popular New Year’s resolutions are:  1) to lose weight; 2) to exercise; and 3) to stop smoking.  In my case, using this list would give me a leg up, since I  stopped smoking before my sixteen-year-old was conceived.

 7.  Choose a resolution randomly

     You might write down several possible resolutions and pick (or have someone pick for you) one or more, with or without blindfolding.  You might experiment with hats, spinners, dice, or whatever amusing device comes to mind.  Or you could get really elaborate and employ technological randomization.  The beauty of this tactic is that it puts the emphasis on the keeping of the resolution rather than on the making of the perfect one.  Of course, you may end up virtuously committed to something relatively meaningless, even gobbledygook.

In presenting this admittedly incomplete, and determinedly imperfect guide, I am keeping at least two of the resolutions I am considering making today—to eschew perfectionism in favor of accomplishment, and to maintain this newborn blog.  I wish anyone who might accidentally come upon this entry, and my husband and sister who will read it on purpose (or claim to have), a happy, imperfect, unblocked New Year!

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