Although about fifty percent of the population makes New Year’s Resolutions every year, the psychologists tell us only about eight percent of those people are actually successful. Frankly even that number seems high to me. Every year I write out a long list of resolutions. One: to be more active. Two: to be more conscious of my drinking. Three: to be more open to meeting new people, etcetera, etcetera. I usually fail but I don’t feel defeated. I just admit to myself that I’m a lazy misanthropic drunk and I’ve already accomplished resolution number four: To be more honest.
One reason we come up short is that we make too many New Year’s Resolutions. But the smartest people have learned to make changes incrementally. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg posted his resolution to run three hundred sixty- five miles this year. When people said he’d never do it, he reminded them that that’s just one mile a day. But what if your life is a mess and you have lots of changes to make? Simple. Do them in increments: one resolution for this year, one for next year and the year after that and so on. With any luck you’ll be long dead before you get to the really hard ones.
Although I find myself making the same resolutions year after year, I try not to get hung up about it. For instance, I always make a resolution to improve to my memory but when I look back realize I forgot all about it the next day. And then there’s that annual resolution to save more money but since New Year’s comes right after Christmas, I don’t have any.
Experts tell us that our resolutions are built on unrealistic expectations, the false premise that once we achieve our goal, our entire life will change for the better. But anyone who has ever struggled to lose five pounds knows this isn’t true.
So, what can you realistically expect if you a have carrot stick and cup of black coffee for lunch instead of a cheeseburger and fries? That you’ll look like a movie star? Hardly. That you’ll be happier and more popular? Forget about it. So what is the realistic expectation for going on a diet? Simple. You’ll be hungry and tired and miserable and anyone who approaches you will probably get their head bitten off.
Above all, I’ve learned to be flexible. Not to saddle myself with unattainable goals. Did you know that a huge number of people make a resolution each year to make new friends? But we all know the effort that takes: You have to call them, and find a time to meet, and ask them all about how their life is going. Sometimes you even have to pretend you’re interested. It’s exhausting. So, I have simply learned to tweak the resolution from Making New Friends to Not Pissing Off the Ones I Already Have. Trust me, its a lot less work.
Have you ever made resolution that had to do with reading more? I know that on my bedside table I have a huge pile of unfinished books and every year I make a resolution that I’m not going to buy another book until I finish the ones I’ve started. What to do? I finally nailed the answer: Buy short books.
By far the biggest new years resolution is getting exercise. But we all know how hard it is to drag yourself to the gym through the wind and the cold. The trick, I’ve learned, is in the gear you wear. So, whenever I leave the house, I wear only gym shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers. Nothing else. No coat. No hat. No scarf. No gloves. No socks. With that one simple hack, I motivate myself to run at full speed wherever I’m outdoors all winter long.
But above all, it’s important to be real. Is a new year really going to mean a new you? On January first, are you really going to start living life to the fullest?
You can certainly give it a shot, but from personal experience I can tell you that if you try to live everyday as if it’s your last but don’t actually die, the first day of the rest of your life is going to start with a very bad hangover, a horrible headache, and a very awkward conversation with the stranger who woke up next to you bed.
I’m Ira Wood…and that’s my opinion.