There’s something energizing, something almost cleansing, about starting a new year. Provided that you don’t start yours by waking up January 1st in a champagne-induced fog, feeling like you’ve gone a few rounds with a steamroller (and lost!), New Year’s Day, and the month of January, really, can often be the start of something wonderful.
Each year, on that day, it feels like we’re given a fresh start. The slate is wiped clean, and we begin anew. It’s like getting a guaranteed do-over on an annual basis.
So what is the first thing many of us do with that clean slate? We screw it up by trying to fix everything we don’t like at all once. We humans have a terrible habit, come every New Year, of making lofty, and in some cases, over-reaching resolutions, and setting ourselves up for failure.
Just for fun, go to Google and type in something like “why do New Year’s resolutions fail?” and you’ll find dozens of articles, from psychologists, business moguls, and health writers, explaining why resolutions are so frequently unsuccessful. Take this article, for example, from British magazine The Independent. Writer Siobhan Norton tells us that only one in ten of us will successfully achieve a New Year’s goal or resolution.
And why is our success rate so dismal? According to most experts on the subject, we fail because we make our resolutions too big, too vague, and too open-ended, and we don’t properly prepare ourselves to achieve them.
It’s one thing to say you’re going to lose weight, or go to the gym, or quit smoking. All of these things are admirable goals if you have weight to lose, or you smoke, or don’t get enough exercise. But saying you’ll do them is much easier than actually doing them. In order to reach those goals, you need to develop a realistic plan for the journey.
I’m just as guilty as anyone else of overreaching with New Year’s goals. Every year I resolve to lose some weight. Every year I intend to get the mess in my office organized. Every year I’m going to get more exercise.
And I always mean well. I just don’t take the right approach. You know how that is. You’ve probably done it yourself, right?
A few weeks ago, somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Day, while I was busy fighting off the constant threat of a sugar coma, and looking around at my messy and neglected house, I had a revelation about the whole resolution thing. It wasn’t that my resolutions were unachievable. It was that I wasn’t defining them specifically enough, or allowing myself adequate time to achieve them. It came down to a lack of proper planning.
Here’s my problem – when I want to achieve something, I want to do it as fast as possible. I want my office cleaned, tidied, sorted, and purged in a day. I want to lose 20 pounds but I want it to happen in a week. And then when those things don’t happen on the self-imposed and totally ridiculous timeline I’ve created, I get discouraged and give up.
At least, I used to do that. But during that week, when the holiday rush was over and I could think again, something occurred to me that may have helped me turn a corner. The lesson was staring me right in the face.
I had just reached a fairly monumental life goal in the completion of my master’s degree. It had taken me 3 ½ years of steady work to do it. I knew from the get-go that it was going to take me about that long. I never wavered from that path, either. I just kept taking classes.
At times, it seemed that I was such a long way from the goal that I might never reach it. But I never stopped moving toward it. And if this worked with an arduous process like grad school, surely it could work if I applied it to other goals. Voila! An epiphany!
You know, even if this was the only lesson that I took from my school experience (and don’t worry, it’s not), as a life lesson, it’s not a bad one.
So this New Year’s Day, I decided that I would put everything on a logical, achievable timetable. Weight loss, exercise, organization, even looking for a new job – all of it needed to be done, but all of it didn’t need to be done right this minute. And as long as I was logical in the pursuit of these goals, and kept moving towards them, I promised myself I would not beat myself up for taking adequate time to achieve them. Nor would I mentally berate myself for every missed workout, dietary slip-up, or pile of unsorted paper.
So far, so good. The office could still be mistaken for a hazardous waste site, but of the seven giant piles of paper that I counted on January 1st, I’ve sorted through two of them. I try to spend a few hours each weekend making a dent. Eventually, I’ll get it done.
Since January 1st, I’ve dropped 5½ pounds. I have more to go, but I’m moving in the right direction, eating a more balanced diet and getting much more exercise. I’ve even found a Facebook group of like-minded Foo fans who are also working on losing weight and getting healthier this year. Hell, even Mr. Grohl his own self has resolved to hit the gym more in 2015. If it’s good enough for Dave, well…
So, regardless of whether you’re a resolution-maker or not, I hope you’ll think about doing something positive this year. Take better care of yourself. Think of something you’ve always wanted to do, and go do it. Find some time to do a good turn for someone else, perhaps.
Time is precious, and it seems shameful to waste it. I’d like to think that another lesson I took away from school was that what you do in the world should matter. Actions should make a difference to someone, whether they impact the greater good, another person, or yourself.
Actions should have a positive influence on someone, or something. So go forth, and be a positive force in the world.
January’s not over yet. Your slate is still clean.
Over the course of the fall, I got way behind on baked goods for the monthly contest, so to make up for all the baking I didn’t do then, I had my IT department pull several names for me. Lots of lucky Texas readers in the pool – Chris from Arlington, and Gwin from Alpine will be receiving brownies, and Missy from Roanoke has requested a pan of pecan pie bars!
The last winner is not an individual, but a BAND that’s been following the blog! Borrow Tomorrow, out of Indianapolis, let me know that they were very excited to find out they’d won. Probably not as excited as I was to find out a band was following me. I’m waiting to hear back to find out what they would like me to send them, and in the meantime, I downloaded their EP, The One That Stays.
Thanks for reading along, everyone. Keep it up, and a package of treats may find its way to your door!