With just a few days remaining until we all watch the ball drop and wonder if this will be Dick Clark’s final year, (I love ya, man, but please – retire. You deserve the break and we deserve to have a new tradition, preferably with a non-geriatric host), the desire to make changes in our lives increases exponentially. In fact, there seems to exist this pressure to use this time – the passing of the calendar year – to assess all of the many months prior and the seemingly unlimited ones ahead. Gym memberships skyrocket in January, only to provide you with yet another unused card in the back of your wallet by the time the first tulips are pushing through the still-barren ground. Nicotine patches are scooped up like a 2-for-1 sale at a candy shop. And for the more creative amongst us, many try and one-up themselves from years past, whether or not they actually succeeded in the things they pledged to do or behaviours they promised to change. Many of my friends engage in “Health Month” wherein they devote January to a no-drinking, no-smoking respite from the other 11 months during which they imbibe with gusto. Not that one month of responsibility can make up for eleven others of the opposite, but I like the gesture.
But that’s all it is: a gesture. Perhaps even a challenge. I’m no stranger to either; I’ve done the Master Cleanse just to see if I could do it. (For the record, I can, and I may be doing it again, so know that this post is not written from a pedestal demonstrating my high-and-mightyness; instead, I’m firmly intermingled with the rest of y’all, striving and trying to change and grow and thrive.) A competitive person by nature, I find myself pushing forward most effectively when I’m either posed with a challenge, a dare, or an assumption that provokes me to prove to you – and me – that I can accomplish the opposite. Similarly, there’s an inherent attractiveness about the beginning of a new year – THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE (and sometimes, one more) days ahead to become the person we’ve been trying to be for years now. And though many need, and like, this impetus, I can also firmly say that it’s unnecessary. You change when you want to, or – often times – when you need to. You change when you recognize that acting the same way and doing the same things and making the same decisions yields the same results. Don’t like the results? Then change what caused them to be that way…namely, whatever it is that you’ve been saying or doing or thinking. Sounds simple, right?
I wish. If that was the case, we all would be 10 pounds less, making $30k more and happily in love. That’s not to say, though, that you can’t TRY, and that’s why I think so many people find New Years Resolutions to be so attractive. It’s not naïve, it’s optimistic. I know a person who gave up french fries every single year until she realized that she was failing because she didn’t WANT to give up french fries; in fact, she LOVED french fries. So the next year she gave up GIVING UP french fries, and has been met with stellar success ever since. (Clever, aren’t I? Um, I mean, isn’t she? OK, fine, that person is me, and I still DO love me some french fries, but now that they’re no longer off limits, I find that I eat them a lot less than I used to. Reverse psychology or else closely aligned with my obsession with all things challenging, including men. Another parallel for another time, I suppose…Anyway.) Trying to better oneself should always be applauded, encouraged, supported.
And yet – despite all of this – I have stopped making New Years Resolutions, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. It’s certainly not because I don’t think there are things I could change about myself; in fact, that list is at an all-time high. Yet I don’t think I need the triteness of it all – I’ve always been somewhat of an anti-conformist, if only for traditions – and I also tend to be somewhat impetuous, and don’t think I have the patience to wait for January 1st to make these all-encompassing changes. Instead, I’m trying to engage in a “rolling improvement process”, making changes on an ongoing basis. Takes off the pressure of revamping your life all at once, and appeals to my challenging, competitive nature. Also gives me a great excuse to take stock of where I am and what I want more than a few weeks out of the year, and provides me with the courage to make small, incremental improvements instead of piling one change upon the next, setting myself up for certain failure.
So as the year comes to a close, I wish you the best of luck for the successful achievement of your New Years Resolutions, whatever they may be. I’ll toast your successes – and hell, your failures, in case that’s the outcome – with a big plate of french fries. My treat.