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“I Resolve Not to Resolve”

New Year’s resolutions, I’ve always said, are nothing more than a set-up for failure. Now, after my ADHD diagnosis, I’m taking a hard look at those annual attempts and why they failed in the past.

What do I have to show for a lifetime of New Year’s resolutions? A trail of abandoned best intentions — and not much more.

Whether it was quitting smoking, exercising more, or getting more organized, all of my former resolutions went by the wayside — usually before February 1.

I understand that ADHD involves a lack of sufficient blood flow to the important part of the brain that governs executive function. That’s the part of the brain that helps set and achieve long-term goals. So, the part that would be useful to have functioning at its peak when trying to start a new, good habit or break an old, bad one. So, my resolutions really were set up to fail.

One New Years Eve, when I was still drinking, my wife and I were at a dinner party. She suggested, in front of the other couple, with a half-joking, half-challenging smirk, that spouses should pick resolutions for each other. I shot that down as quick as I could. I knew hers for me would be would be to drink less. Mine for her would probably have been to comment less about my drinking.

I didn’t quit drinking as a result of a resolution. It was more of a submission. I had to realize that I was powerless over alcohol and that I would lose everything if I kept drinking. That sounds like it could be taken as strong motivation, but staying sober for me is not about being motivated as much as giving in and accepting that I can’t handle drinking. I’m different than the guy who can have a few drinks and not have it spiral out of control. ADHD makes me different than others also. Some people, I imagine, could will-power their way to better organization or break up a long-term goal into achievable tasks and complete them.

I’m going to spare myself the pretense of a resolution this year. Instead, I’m going to make a deal with myself. I’m going to practice accepting that I am different. I’m going to remind myself to take steps when I recognize that I need help with my focus – exercise, for example, and eating right.

It’s not a resolution in the sense that I’m striving to achieve something. Rather, I’m going to accept what I need to about myself. And, with an amount of grace that the resolution-maker might call failure, I’ll try to make the best choices for myself based on who I am. I’m also going to try to remember that, while this difference makes some things more difficult, it also opens up possibilities.

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