2008: New Year's Resolution Power For Grown-Ups

Dec 28, 2007

I have not been one to repose great faith in the “New Year’s resolution” concept. This is because, due to the hectic pace of the season in which they are made, resolution lists seem cobbled together as a feverish afterthought, or as a party game on the libation-drenched night of December 31st, when the guacamole dip is running low and the beer commercials aren’t.

Typically, people reel off a series of wildly varied goals requiring the monitoring and completion of long-term processes, though few will acknowledge that such work is critical to the attainment of their stated goals. “I’m going to quit smoking,” someone will say. “I’m going to be a better son.” “We’re going to have more frequent and loving family dinners in this house if it kills us all.” And who’s not yet heard, or made, that most faithfully resurrected vow of the season: “I’m going to get down to (INSERT YOUR DREAM WEIGHT HERE) by summertime…”

Other classic, if somewhat nebulous, intentions include getting organized; stopping to “smell the roses”; spending more time with family and friends; volunteering; reducing stress; resolving debt; and eating smart. On the more quirky side: A brief scan of online sources reveals that a disturbing percentage of the U.S. population feels the need to resolve, for 2008, not to be spotlighted on “COPS” (…again, if the accompanying images are any indication); and there is at least one person out there determined to master the “Warrior’s Tongue” via the Klingon Language Institute’s little-known but well-regarded correspondence course. (If you’re wondering, the answer is “No”: I don’t make this stuff up. I should be so inventive.)

Now, whether a New Year’s resolution is a hardy standard or well and truly “out there”, the following elements are crucial to the hope of success—and to the minimization of disappointment:

1. No-nonsense prioritizing: It is necessary to unflinchingly separate in one’s mind those things “it would be nice to see happen” from those one is driven from within to bring about during the year.

2. A realistic, specific, gradual plan with an accountability component: Have you got a better shot at attaining 82 separate, long-term objectives this year, or 3? Are the odds better for tackling 3 goals simultaneously, or for staggering your start-points throughout the year? Have you got a better chance at something called “keeping fit”, or at taking the most distant space in the mall parking lot, then walking to all the stores you can from there for the next 12 months? Will you come closer to your goals in random, intermittent bursts of effort, or through naming them, breaking them down into the smallest activity-units possible, and giving each of these a place on your calendar for the coming year? Finally, is it better to go it alone, or to have a trusted soul or group helping you to celebrate each forward move?

Remember, we’re talking 365 days here, not the 48 hours before some dreaded high school reunion. Contrary to the substance—and here I use that term in the loosest possible sense—of pop-cultural conditioning, time really is on your side, if you’ll embrace it. Not everything in life has to be approached with an eye toward completion within the time span of a music video. But within a single year, small, sustained efforts will indeed add up to noticeable progress in the areas that we claim mean the most in our lives.

Ah, but if only I were penning a piece here on principles you didn’t already know.

2008 would be the year I got rich!