Staying the Course with New Year’s Resolutions

Week three is always the toughest for me. The first week, I glide on intention and hope. Week two? I can muscle through with determination, but by the time week three hits, temptations beckon. Whether or not I keep my resolutions—to do “x” or quit doing “y”—depends on how I get through that third week. So, I’m dedicating this Week Three of January 2019 to staying the course to victory.

I’ve been making New Year’s resolutions since some time in high school. As a teenager, I made very serious ones. They were almost always too difficult for me (learn Russian, this year) and were usually inspired by who I thought I should be (lose ten pounds) rather than who I was. It probably goes with saying that I was rarely very successful. Still, I kept making resolutions diligently every year. No, I haven’t mastered Russian (ya ochen’ plokho govoryu po russki) and I don’t think I ever lost that ten pounds (I decided to stop weighing myself). In fact, it’s been years since I set those as goals at all because in the midst of all that falling short, I refined my process for resolution making. That’s the good thing about failure, it’s a great teacher. 

I now start the process with a balance of  hope and honesty. Making resolutions is inherently a hopeful activity. When we sit down and write out resolutions (and they must be written down!), we’re saying to ourselves that we can do better. That is hope. And while I’m all in favor of audacious resolutions and radical changes, I’ve found that for me, injecting some cold, hard, honesty to the mix is critical to success. That means, no pretending that I can do “x” because I technically have the time late at night to do it. I’m not a night owl. Never have been and, if I’m being honest with myself, I never will be. It’s not helpful for me to fight that natural tendency when I’m already expending energy trying to establish some new habit.

Being honest doesn’t only apply to my personality quirks, it also means being honest about the resolutions themselves. Resolving to do things that sound good, but aren’t really all that important to me, doesn’t exactly pave the way for success.  If I try to build a new habit or change a behavior, I need to really care about it.  What about that weight-loss resolution that once upon a time was a permanent fixture on my list of resolutions? After years of writing down some variation of that goal and failing, I realized that I didn’t really care about my weight.  What I cared about, was being (relatively) healthy and (relatively) strong. As soon as I resolved to work out x number of times a week instead of resolving to lose x number of pounds, I succeeded. Now, several years later, my workouts are as natural as brushing my teeth. 

All I needed was to make a resolution that was hopeful about the change I wanted to make and was an honest reflection of me and what I was capable of doing. I know a resolution to exercise is not the same as a resolution to write more or write better, but I do think the same underlying principle applies. I need to be optimistic when I make resolutions, and I need to accept exactly where I am in the clear light of day. When both of those boxes are ticked, I at least have a shot at accomplishing the thing I’ve set out to do.

So, for all you resolution makers out there, may we all be victorious in our endeavors to become better writers, kinder people, more thoughtful citizens, and whatever else it is that you have set your sights on for 2019. (Yeah, that’s why there’s the photo of Nike of Samothrace aka Winged Victory.) 

See you tomorrow for day two of week three!

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