Yesterday I teased this post about New Year’s resolutions, why I don’t make them, and what I do instead. So without preamble, let’s get into the meat of what a resolution is.
Merriam-Webster defines a “resolution” as “the act or process of making a definite and serious decision to do something.” With the start of a new year, the attractiveness of making a new start on something is almost palpable. I think everyone wants to improve themselves, and the changing of the calendar is certainly a logical time to kick off the new you. By this definition, I have no problem with resolutions at New Year’s.
However, many people write their resolutions in absolutes. “I will not smoke this year.” “I will go to the gym three times a week.” “I will avoid soda.” And again, this falls into the definite and serious decision part of the definition. But this is where things often hit a snag.
We so often write our resolutions in such a way as to invite failure, and when we do inevitably reach for that cigarette or skip the gym or instinctively ask for a Coke in the drive-thru, we make the definite and serious decision that we have broken our resolution and thus failed in our New Year’s objective. And having made the decision that we’ve already screwed up, we just throw our hands in the air and
Now, to be fair, not everyone does this. A lot of people realize the fallacy of creating impossible resolutions and word theirs more appropriately. “I will smoke less.” “I will go to the gym more often.” “I will cut back on the amount of soda that I drink.” And they establish a metric that is measurable and yet achievable throughout the year.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for a different reason, however, though when I resolve to do something, it’s more along the lines of what I’ve just described in the previous paragraph. The changing of the calendar is an arbitrary construct, as is evidenced by the fact that the original Roman calendar had ten months, not twelve; their year was 304 days long; and their months from the fifth one of the year (Quintilis) to the tenth (December) were all named for the order they came in the calendar. The predecessor to March was the start of the Roman year, and January and February didn’t come along until later. So if the date the new year starts has been fluid across history, why not make the time that I make resolutions fluid as well?
People make resolutions all the time, but it’s most popular to do this with the coming of a new year. Part of that is herd mentality; if you have other people working toward their own resolutions, you can encourage your fellows in their pursuits while they reciprocate with you. But I’ve never felt the need to stick with a New Year’s resolution – I make them all the time in a constant push to better myself.
What I do instead is make the same declaration at the beginning of every year: “May the coming year be an improvement over the previous one.” It covers all the basis in one sentence, and allows me to make changes as I feel they are necessary rather than lumping so much change at once. (That’s another quick way of failing, trying to establish several new habits simultaneously. Some people can do it; I’m not one of them. It’s why I space my resolutions through the year, so I can concentrate on making each one stick in its own time.)
I realize this post may make me come across as feeling superior to others who follow the resolution tradition, but that’s not at all the case. For a lot of people, New Year’s resolutions work, and work well. I encourage everyone to do what works best for them, and if making New Year’s resolutions is what you do, then you have my unconditional support in achieving your goals. I’m just stating why the traditional model doesn’t work for me, and what I do instead.
Regardless of what you do in 2015, may I wish for you the same thing I wish for myself.
May the coming year be an improvement over the previous one. For all of us.