One year I made the following New Year’s resolutions:
Eat only three donuts per day.
Watch only 3 hours of television per day.
Exercise at least 15 minutes per week.
Having the moral endurance of boiled linguine, I quickly reverted to my usual intake of donuts, television viewing, and exercise.
The following year I tried a more measured approach:
Diet for two weeks.
Watch no television for one week.
Exercise at least 15 minutes per day for five days.
Well, that lasted as long as a cannoli in the movie The Godfather.
New Year’s Eve is a time for good cheer, champagne, and midnight hugs and kisses. Why spoil the mood with spouting spur-of-the-moment resolutions? Why do we put ourselves through this annual routine of setting goals that we mostly fail to achieve? Do we assess our lives and decide to improve ourselves based on the calendar?
It seems to me that most New Year’s resolutions involve an attempt to rid ourselves of bad habits, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and resistance to exercise–all worthwhile self-improvement goals. Breaking a bad habit requires thoughtful advanced planning, a concerted effort to change behavior, and determination. The gravity of the struggle to conquer a bad habit seems incongruent to the cheerfulness of a New Year’s celebration. Perhaps that explains the reason many New Year’s resolutions are forgotten quickly: they are made at a time of celebration and lightheartedness.
Perhaps the focus for making resolutions should shift from an internal perspective to an external one: resolutions that require positive action on our part to advance a cause, help a person, or enhance the beauty of a community. Changing the viewpoint from what we shouldn’t do to what we can do, I would argue, makes achieving goals more realistic and easier to fulfill.
A resolution can be as simple as a single occurrence that takes one hour, one week, or even one minute. It doesn’t need to extend a full year. The idea in setting the resolution is that the effort required to achieve it is sustainable and reasonably attainable.
This type of New Year’s resolution is entirely congruent with the convivial spirit of the holiday. What would be a better way to celebrate the start of the New Year than to spread goodwill and to agree to engage in a charitable endeavor! Touching the lives of others, even in a small way, gives us a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and also community involvement.
While I want to work on losing weight and exercising in 2020, I promise I will be patient with my efforts. I may succeed, or I may not. Change doesn’t occur with the snap of a finger. It is like building an addition to a house. It requires time, considerable effort, extreme patience, and tolerance for slip-ups. Contrary to the current self-help trend of desirable results, personal growth comes from perseverance when inevitable setbacks discourage us.
I have a few days remaining to decide on a New Year’s resolution. Here are a few I am considering:
Reconnect with relatives
Have more date nights with my wife
Aspire to accomplish more in retirement
Find ways to express my inner child
“Past and Present I know well; each is a friend and sometimes an enemy to me. But it is the quiet, beckoning Future, an absolute stranger, with whom I have fallen madly in love.”
Richelle E. Goodrich
Happy New Year!
– Joe from Arizona, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (LLC).