New Year’s Irresolutions

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

By this time one year from now, I will have shed the 60-odd pounds I’ve acquired since the day I quit smoking some 20 years ago and again become the 145-pound beanpole I once was.

If you believe that, maybe you’d like to buy some of this prime Florida swampland I’m selling too.

I’m not the only person selling this sort of stuff this time of year. The New Year is the traditional time for most of us to look at the messes we’ve made in the past and vow that starting now, we’re going to clean them all up.

We call these vows “New Year’s resolutions.” The fact, however, is that most of these turn out to be New Year’s irresolutions – testaments to the triumph of habit over will.

Let’s take the resolution I just made here, for instance. It’s not unachievable – with enough exercise and changes in my diet, I could shed all 60 of those pounds. But somehow, the siren song of the cheese tray seduces me off the path of virtue, and that workout needed as penance never happens.

I’m sure there are some irresolutions of this type that you make every year: You will finally find the man or woman of your dreams and begin your own happily ever after. You will take the advice of all those personal finance columnists and actually save up a few months’ income for a rainy day. You’ll kick your smoking habit. You’ll take the time to stop and smell the roses. You’ll toss out that Gawd-awful throw rug your Aunt Ruth gave you as a housewarming gift many moons ago.

Well, you might actually keep that last resolution. But if you’re like too many of us, the really serious ones will fall by the wayside as the year progresses. Some may not even make it past January.

Here’s some advice, then, on how to make those resolutions less irresolute:

We didn’t get to the moon on the first try. Setting a goal that’s too high, while ambitious, often becomes a disincentive to achievement. Instead, shoot for something reasonable that can be accomplished in a relatively short time.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Saving up six months’ income can be a pretty daunting task. Saving your loose change usually isn’t. Find small things you can do that are consistent with your goal and do them. Then, as these become habits, ratchet your goals up a notch, then another notch, then another. Before long, you will find that you may even have actually reached that big goal you set for yourself.

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder…of what you’ve sworn off. Yes, we know that the AA model works for a whole host of substance-abuse problems, and it’s also the basis of the Weight Watchers approach to dieting. But if you don’t have the intense support that is part of these programs, you will probably find yourself eventually doing more of whatever it was you swore you’d do less of. For many, a gradual approach works better.

Of course, even if you follow all these tips, it still boils down to: Will you or won’t you? The trick is to find what you will do in order to achieve your goal.

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Despite what you read here, this isn’t an advice column. In fact, this column will be a little like “Seinfeld”: It’s a column about nothing, which means it can be about anything. That might even include something you suggest. E-mail me at the address at the right if you have a topic you’d like me to tackle.

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