As I arrive at the doorstep of another year, I reflect on the previous: what I did and wish I had not, what I didn't do and wish I had, and what I didn't think of that would've made life a whole lot easier.
I draw up an ambitious and puritanical list. Very quickly, however, reality dawns and my enthusiasm wanes. My 10-plus "things to do to change the world" morph into five "definite" resolutions. Then, finally, I settle on the one habit I will change... maybe.
This year, resolution #1 is to stop misleading myself. I'll skip over the list of all-new promises I secretly don't intend to keep. Instead, I'll resurrect the ghosts of resolutions past, and resolve to keep them. This time. For sure.
A few years ago, I resolved to maintain a budget worksheet. I set monthly spending caps for clothing, eating out, entertainment, and so on. I tracked my actual expenses, then dutifully noted the differences. I found it very helpful…until I stopped, sometime around February. This year, I'll try to keep it going, at least until March.
I'm also steeling myself to organize all the papers I've accumulated over the past year. I tend to stuff miscellaneous notes to self, phone numbers, receipts, and "bright ideas" in a big drawer and forget about them. They've sat unattended to for many months now, but I plan to go through them. Maybe I'll find a direction for my life somewhere in there.
And, of course, that most resolute of resolutions -- getting in shape. Seeing the brave New Year's resolutionists at the gym the first week of January, I'm moved by a palpable spirit of change and renewal. Slowly at first, then dramatically, these warriors begin to drop by the wayside. By March only the usual fanatics remain at the gym. What are their secrets, the ones that will help me stick around to keep company with them? I asked around and got answers like, "It helps boost my energy and mood" and "I read while using a cardio machine at a low resistance. That way I can keep up with school work, or just enjoy a novel, and I don't get bored." I think I'll give that a try.
So how can I keep my New Year's resolutions, whatever they might be?
I'm going to try not to think too big. Maybe I should start with something simple, like clearing out my closet and donating old clothes to charity. No one said resolutions have to be life-changing events. I can save that kind of resolution for next year. (By the way, you know those clothes you dream of tailoring, or shrinking yourself into? Those have to go. Just think about how much better your closet will look with less in it.)
I'm going to try not to do it all at once. If I thought I had to do everything right away, I'd have a panic attack. It's called a New YEAR’s resolution, and there are 365 days in a typical year. Trust me, we've got time.
A final resolution? I’m determined to renew some of my old friendships. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reconnect with all those people I've been avoiding or forgetting to call back. Contrary to what you may have heard, all of us get more than we can handle at times. No one ever said that we have to get through life on our own.
This article comes from the December 2006/January 2007 issue of ADDitude.