Well, you know the rest. It’s paved with good intentions. Every year, usually during the alcohol-fueled bonhomie of New Year’s Eve, we perform the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. Over 95% of the resolutions made are based solidly on good intentions. Of course, there’s always that 5% or so of not-so-good resolutions some people might make… the ones left unfulfilled because of the fear of civil or legal repercussions, or the actions of vengeful spouses.
For the rest of us, the arduous task of keeping our resolutions starts the morning of January 1st. To quote Shakespeare, “It was the winter of our discontent.” A few weeks into the New Year – or if you’re like me a few days – we realize that maybe we bit off more than we could chew. Then lo and behold, it’s almost the end of January and we’re facing a moment of bitter shame inner reflection. When this happens, we go into three stages of reactive consciousness:
- Hey! I still have eleven months to do it. I’ve got this. Eventually. Maybe.
- That was a stupid resolution to make in the first place. No-one would ever keep that resolution.
- Did I even make any resolutions for this year? I should really get on that for next year.
Researchers at the Foundation for American Intention Loss (F.A.I.L.) have determined that the failure to follow through on New Year’s resolutions is the second most common reason for self-loathing among Americans; the first being the failure to vote last November. I tend to agree with them. That’s why I decided long ago to stop making New Year’s resolutions. I have plenty of other ways to generate self-loathing, which I do fairly well I’ll have you know.
Instead, I took to heart the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” Okay, so look. That’s just a saying. I wouldn’t really eat an elephant. Elephants are like my third favorite animal, right behind horses and pigs. Plus, I hate hunting. And I don’t eat meat. So yeah, it’s just a figure of speech symbolizing how one handles a large problem or issue. Not really condoning the eating of elephants, people. Just wanted to make that clear.
The point is, rather than set one large 365-day goal, I’ve set 365 small daily goals.
Now, I don’t want to go all “Dr. Phil” on everyone, but I find it much easier to accomplish daily “baby steps” than to try to accomplish a resolution of say, “I’m going to write a novel during 2018.” Resolutions are like term papers. You think you have plenty of time to finish them, but you wind up pulling an all-nighter the day before it’s due. Where’s the fun – or learning – in that?
BUT, when you make a small resolution each day, accomplishing it is quite easy. Start reading a book. Call Aunt Eleanor. Give a cheerful “Hello” to the checkout clerk who always looks overwhelmed. Clean the bathroom. Take the dog for a walk. Don’t rage at the rude drivers. Okay, so some are harder to achieve than others. Learn something new. Organize my closet. Well, maybe this one should take two days. But you get the idea.
Soon you’ll notice a change. The self-loathing-o-meter readings will start to drop. Your family and friends will notice your increased self-confidence and hopefully brighter demeanor.
Better tell them what you’re doing for 2018 though…lest they think that you’re up to something.