Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolve Not To

New Year’s resolutions are nothing but cruel tricks designed to lead you down the path of failure. We place so much faith on the flip of a single page of the calendar. Three hundred and sixty six days come to a close today. At this decidedly arbitrary point in space, the earth slowly prepares for another journey around the sun, and we tack up on the wall a unmarked 12 pages of dates and months to mark the seemingly sluggish passage of time, sighing to ourselves, much in the way we did last year, that December 31, 2009, seems so far away.

Perhaps only in our minds, the unsullied new year has such promise. Midnight tonight, change will stand on the threshold and convert our lives into something magical…all because we merely say it will.

This promise of change, a trick on the concept of tradition, the mundane repetition that sometimes blankets our lives with the smothering of dull duplication will never end because we get a new calendar. The last 12 months have been the same cycle: Go to work, eat, sleep, go to work. From the big picture, each day seems to be a mirror of the last and a reflection of the next.

Alas, when the new year comes around, wrapping up so nicely the holiday season with a smart little bow and a cheerful party, typified by a song nobody knows the words to (and those that do don’t know what they mean), we are offered the chance to renew ourselves with a promise of change. This year will be different; all of the dreadful things that happened last year are finally relegated to the past memory.

We promise those around us—announced usually after a couple of drinks in a round-robin game of “What’s your New Year’s resolutions?” and then desperately try to convince ourselves that we’ll somehow become better people: We’re going to lose weight. We’re going to work harder. We’re going to be more optimistic (my personal favorite). We’re going to take advantage of every fleeting moment in the hopes and dreams that we can eek out more meaning and more excitement in our lives. We’re going to save money. We’re going to the gym and finally get in shape. We’re going to better ourselves in some way that will add pleasure, accomplishment, pride and a sense of significance to our existence.

It’s mostly selfish too. We never resolve to be nicer to other people, or to donate our time to charity. We would never give up the dream of self-improvement.

All of this is leveled down upon us with a pop of a cork and a countdown to midnight, the revelry of friends and family, the enthusiasm for what the new year will bring… the unknown… the one time we are allowed to look into the future and dream about the possibilities contained within the next 12 very short months. The deception has begun: The change of the calendar brings with it a guilt that we too should change something about ourselves, whether they be lofty goals or trivial particulars, and soon we find that resolutions, though maybe full of good intentions, are also loaded with disappointment and disillusionment.

The year changed so easily, why can't you? You’re standing in the middle of a New Year’s Eve party as the clock steady clicks off the few remaining minutes until 2009 and you are faced with a conundrum. What needs changing about you? It’s funny, but that’s not the question you should be asking. Instead, you should ask yourself, why do I need to change? What in my life am I doing that I shouldn’t and what can I do about it?

The singular problem with resolutions is that they are often doomed by their own ambitiousness, as the desire to find a quick salve to simmer your shortcomings and sanctify your all too lofty dreams of perfection becomes your eminent downfall. Unrealistic goals are a quick way of setting yourself up for failure, defeat letdown and the crushing depression that usually follows . Failure is hardly a way to start the year, so you find patronizing excuses to step out from under the guilt.

Sooner than we can say February, we’re back to the old routine again: eat, sleep, go to work, pining for the weekends and the big plans, the future endeavors that will eventually change everything. The procrastination. The what-ifs. The maybes. The mights. The “everythings” never come because we never want them to; the status quo is such for a reason, and we fear change even the slightest fraction. Complacency is comforting, consistency offers a regular menu of steady predictability, and if the current situation is acceptable—regardless of whatever colored glasses you see it through—then why change it?

This becomes February’s argument against December’s promise of improvement. If you lose weight, you’ll have to buy new clothes; what’s one more piece of pie? I’ll start my diet tomorrow. If you save money, you won’t have any fun; but I just need the latest fashions, the matching purse or the Wii attachment. If you be more optimistic, you’re only hiding from reality (again, my favorite). If you stop and smell the roses, you’ll miss out on the race, and we’ve trained ourselves to believe that winning The Race is the most important thing in life, the ultimate “keeping up with the Jones.” Ah, February, you cold temptress, locked still in the shadows of winter, depressed, recoiled, inconsiderate of our dreams of betterment and progress. The last month of winter, the month of the dead, just before spring.

Soon enough, come March, you’re enjoying the routine of November all because you tried to fool yourself into thinking that a party with some champagne, a giant ball on top of a building and Dick Clark’s bland successor Ryan Seacrest in Times Square, is going to change your life… because you merely said it would. You made a declaration, a resolution. Essentially, you made a promise to yourself and others to change something about yourself without having the slightest idea how to accomplish the task.

Success does not come from thoughts or promises or resolutions, regardless of how much faith is bundled up with them. Success and change are the results of action. Going to the gym involves getting up off the couch. Saving money means you don’t need that Starbucks, regardless that the commercials say you do. And savoring every moment so you don’t miss out on life can only come if you are out in life making those moments. If you say you’re going to lose weight in 09, start by eating less, taking the stairs, walking around the block. You want to save money? Draw up a plan of action, a budget that is realistic. Include those items you normally buy, but just don’t buy as much of it. And, if you’re like me and you plan on being more optimistic, start by seeing the light side of life. Not everything is doom and despair.

Remember this: Just because your house has a window, it doesn’t mean you have a good view, and just because you told yourself at some party tonight that your life is going to change just because you demand that it does, that doesn’t mean it automatically will unless you start down the road toward your goals. The only thing that can free you from the bonds of the mundane and the boring commonplace that may have been 2008 is yourself.

Of course, imagine if everyone had one resolution they actually stuck with for the rest of their lives, with a new one added each and every year thereafter. What a great world this would be. Regardless of what you do this year—get poorer, fatter, richer, or better—make it a good year for yourself and those around you.

And you don’t need a resolution to make that happen.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So far I am keeping all of my 22 resolutions! I am doing well!


web site tracking
Sierra Trading Post