I avoid making New Year’s resolutions, for the same reason most people should: I don’t keep them. But the other day I jokingly told someone I was giving up smoking in 2008, and it suddenly hit me – the secret to resolutions that can be kept.
I do need a new leaf to turn over, one that’s not buried under snow or deteriorating in my home’s overloaded gutters. Let’s face it: 2007 sucked. Illness, marriage breakups, car breakdowns, sewer backups, roof leakage (again), career backfires – and that’s just me. A lot of my friends had it much, much worse.
Yet 2008 has the potential of being even suckier than 2008. You don’t think so? Two words: Presidential campaign. I rest my case.
We need something to bring us up, and give us hope for better things in the future. I
mean real hope, not the same, tired, retread lines that the candidates will be giving us. Ordinarily, New Year’s resolutions don’t really give us that hope, because we set the goals impossibly high:
“I’m going to lose 20 pounds by April.”
No you’re not. It’s winter, and you’re surrounded by leftover Christmas candy. We’ll be lucky if we don’t gain 20 pounds by April.
“I’m going to exercise regularly.”
Get real. Did I mention it’s winter? The human animal, like all animals, wants to hibernate in winter. That means sleeping, napping, getting up long enough to find food, and then sleeping again. If you weren’t already exercising regularly, you just picked the worst possible time in the world to start.
The trick to real, measurably improvements in your life is to start them in spring. In January most of us are subconsciously convinced spring will never arrive, and that this will be the year when winter doesn’t just seem to last an eternity – it actually does last an eternity. That’s not logical, but neither is living in the Snow Belt. Walk up to somebody in Buffalo during a January blizzard and ask them why they live there; they’ll have no idea.
So when the buds really do appear, and the grass really does start to grow, and the slush mountains really do melt away from the Wal-Mart parking lots, you’re looking at something hopeful. That’s the time to go out and change your life.
But it’s not, by definition, a New Year’s resolution. Those must be made at New Year’s time. Otherwise, they’d change the name. See how that works?
A real New Year’s resolution must look good, but in reality be so easy as to be ridiculous. Then, when you’re able to follow it, your mind will be tricked into thinking you’ve done a good deed, and you can reward yourself with lots of Valentine’s candy. Are you a person who never chews your fingernails? Then make a resolution to not chew your fingernails. After a matter of days, you’ll happily notice your fingernails remain unchewed, and you’ve succeeded way more easily than the year before, when you resolved to stay away from chocolate cheesecake.
Armed with that inspiration, I made up my own 2008 New Year’s resolution list:
I resolve to not smoke a single cigarette during 2008.
So far, so good. As I write this we’re only 3 days into the year, but since I’ve never smoked before in my life, confidence is high.
I resolve to give up alcohol.
Since I gave up alcohol after that 21st birthday debacle that people keep telling me about, but which I can’t actually remember, I’m on solid ground here. The only problem will be if the videotape resurfaces, driving me back to drinking.
I resolve to get a girlfriend, and fall in love.
Take note that if you’re going to do both of these things, it should be with the same girl. As it happens, the only decent thing that happened to me in 2007 was getting a girlfriend, and since we actually got together just before 2007, even that doesn’t count. She’s been putting up with me for a year, now; I think it’s possible she may keep me.
I know what you’re thinking: Does it count if you resolve to do something you’ve already done? Yes, it does – that’s the point. It’s not as challenging, but if I want to be challenged I’ll go out to the edge of my driveway, with my plastic snow shovel, and fight the state highway crews for dominance.
I resolve to read more novels.
This one’s a bit iffy, because it requires me to actually do something in the future. However, I love reading, so I’ve got a good shot at it. By making this resolution, I’m challenging myself to cut down on something I don’t like doing so much, in return for doing something I do enjoy. If I don’t trim the hedges quite so often, where’s the harm? Think of all that extra underbrush as free insulation for my home, and shelter for small animals. And deer. And armored vehicles.
I resolve to stop working on my own car, and let people who know what they’re doing handle it.
Well, that’s certainly easy; I gave up working on my car after the big carburetor incident of 1998. Ask my brother, who just sighs and opens his toolbox whenever I pull (or am pulled) into his driveway. Besides, I can’t really work on mechanical items: court order.
Finally, I resolve to make fun of politicians in 2008.
That one’s so easy, it’s like taking candy from a baby. Which brings me back to politicians.
Try it yourself. You might be surprised, and greatly encouraged, to find out how easy it is to do something you’re already doing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve resolved to keep my M&M dispenser filled.