New Year’s resolutions done right

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Ah, the end of the year – the time when people say goodbye to the last 12 months and also maybe show them the middle finger. Of course, the biggest things that come with a new year are New Year’s resolutions, and New Years resolutions were created to sell books about the Paleo diet.

Okay, so resolutions probably weren’t created by giant corporations. You have to admit, however, they sure service people selling weight loss more than they service people making the resolutions. There has to be a different way.


At the end of the year, when we make our resolutions, we usually craft them like they’re the next Thanksgivukkah – huge in scope and way too far into the future. Right off the bat, we’re set up for failure. The only time when people usually stick to massive, life-changing declarations are when massive, life-changing coronaries happen.

Trauma, threats or life-changing experiences usually cause people to make resolutions they actually uphold. But New Year’s?

Arbitrary marker of the passage of time, usually peppered with party hats and vodka. Nothing that’s really driving change in a person, unless you have a life-changing amount of vodka.

Resolutions as big as weight loss or quitting smoking don’t stem from a New Year’s Eve party and they’re too amorphous and vague to actually be successful. If we want to make long-term resolutions that we actually can stick to, we have to completely ignore the beginning of this sentence.

Long term? Resolutions, plural? We have to simplify if we’re going to make it through this year’s batch of declarations, folks. Long-term goals are great – owning a house, losing 50 pounds, radically changing the American governmental system – but resolutions like that usually die long before they’re realized.

We’re hardwired to stop doing things if we don’t see results – quitting is a way for us to cut our losses when something isn’t working, instead of continually dumping time or money into a futile pursuit. It’s a great evolutionary instinct in some cases.

Problem is, losing 50 pounds is hard and it takes a while. For three years in a row, I made a resolution to lose weight, and for three years in a row, I ended February by eating a half-gallon bag of homemade cookie dough.

Those first few weeks of January would involve lots of workouts, eating right and negligible results in terms of the big goal. That’s why the goals have to be within reach, or, sometimes the goals have to be the means. Let exercising five days a week be the goal, not just the means to the end. I found myself sticking to actions like that. It’s a hell of a lot more tangible, and it’s going to lead to the goals you want in the long-term anyway.

For that same reason, having one resolution is going to work out better than having a dozen. Besides, who wins when we make 10 resolutions and fail at nine of them? The big guys. The guys selling relationship help books, anti-smoking gum, etc.

They love this time of year, when we try to make massive changes and buy everything under the sun to help ourselves. We read the first few chapters of the book and shelve it, forget about it and buy a slightly different book next year. The cycle continues where the companies reap the benefits of our ill-conceived resolutions.

So to stick to our goals and fight Corporation Inc., let’s all set a goal to do one thing by January 8, 2014, not January 1, 2015. Not to be something or to have something or to be at a certain point, but to simply do something. It’s the first step to reaching a long-term goal.

Hang on, you might be saying; why would you make a New Years resolution that will be complete in a week? Why would you only create one resolution when you’re looking for a year of change? That requires lots of resolutions, and big ones, to radically change your life! Having a small resolution that will only last a week means I have to constantly make mini-goals throughout the entire year, which totally defeats the purpose of this national pastime!