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4 New Year's Resolutions You Shouldn't Make

by Anne Merritt Dec 29, 2011
If you make these resolutions, you’re probably going to fail.

I HATE THAT brunch. That damn New Year’s Day brunch with family and/or friends. Everyone’s eating fruit salad and whole wheat toast, excited by the clean slate before them.

Resolutions come up. They always do. We go around the table sharing our goals of travel, taking up snowshoeing, getting a dog.

For the sake of brunch chat, I’ll share something flippant. I will read more biographies. I will get into Pinterest. The truth? I hate resolutions. I was thrilled when reports came out that they’re bad for our mental health. What’s wrong with setting small goals? Or none? Or just coasting through January enjoying yourself?

Below are four resolutions I’ve made and failed at.

Don’t say: I will cut out all butter

Also sugar, chocolate, candy, salt, grease. My new diet will be kept on track by the aching memory of Christmas dinner meat sweats, dizziness, and a stomach so full, my pelvis went temporarily numb.

In my student years, I once made a similar sweeping resolution, to cut out my beloved baked goods and chocolate for a clean, green diet, full stop. It lasted about ten days, before stumbling home from an especially lush night out (wine is a fruit!) and eating a whole tray of fancy cookies that my roommate had baked for a special occasion. Most folks who make this resolution have a similar tale.

A no-exceptions healthy diet is great for your body, but almost impossible to follow because it’s so extreme, so joyless. Eating healthy food with an occasional treat is better for your body and sanity than a punitively tight eating regime with sporatic boozed up cookie binges.

A better idea? Make a resolution to add good stuff to your diet, not omitting whole food groups from it. I will eat 2 fruit and veg at every meal is easier to follow than I will never touch my beloved mochaccinos /deep fried pickles /meat lovers’ pizza again.

Don’t say: I will finally get organized.

I will live on a tight budget, keep my apartment spotless, send birthday cards well in advance, do my taxes early, use those German in 30 Lessons CDs I bought at a garage sale.

I’m a messy person by nature, and I make this resolution every birthday, every New Year’s, every time I move house. I’ve tried to fight it. I’ve made baby steps. Despite the odd blitz of zealous housecleaning, my organizational skills remain… average.

As I see it, some people are just more scattered than others. As long as you’re not paying bills late or letting mould grow in the fridge, does it matter if you have a messy closet? Or that you always forget the plug adapter on trips overseas?

From experience, I can say this resolution usually plays out with a bang and a fizzle. Organizing your home/bank account/closet over a zealous January weekend is doable. Keeping up that momentum throughout the year is far tougher.

A better idea? Make small goals, and make yourself accountable for them. If the plan is to sort old clothes and reorganize the closet, plan it around a charity clothing drive so your giveaways have a deadline.

If you want to stop forgetting birthdays, take 30 minutes to update your calendar, including reminders to mail cards a few weeks early. Small steps are the most feasible.

Don’t say: I will join a gym.

I will go diligently 5 times a week. I’ll even buy myself $600 worth of sweat-wicking, shock-absorbing, ass-flattering workout gear as motivation. The kind Madonna wears.

Fitness centers cash in on the popular weight loss resolution by running New Year’s promotions, but I call bullshit on that. First off, the discounts usually aren’t that great, (maybe 10% off), and will likely drop even deeper in a few months’ time. Second, with scores of people hoping to shift the holiday weight, expect crowded gyms, lines in the showers, and waiting lists for the best equipment.

A better idea? If getting fit is the goal, by all means pursue it. The best way to stay on task is to make yourself accountable. Start a blog, so your progress is in the public eye. Or, take that gym membership/Lululemon budget and sign up for a class. Introduce yourself to the instructor. Chat with people. It’s easy to take a week off of big, anonymous gyms. It’s harder to skip a workout when your absence will be noticed.

I once joined a yoga class that was more challenging than the flop-around routines I did at home. The first day, I threw up from all that torso-wringing. I wanted to quit, run, and hide. After class, the instructor sought me out in the change room to check on the state of my stomach. She was so laid-back and encouraging, I kept showing up to follow through on the goals she urged me to set.

Don’t say: I will be less stressed.

This time next year, I will be a serene and beatific person. I will shed my former stresses and do away with mile-long errand lists, high blood pressure, and my habit of stress-buying artisan fudge online at work.

For starters, this goal will take more than some New Year’s can-do to achieve. Combatting stress is a long-term goal that can sometimes take decades. Setting such a vague resolution doesn’t give much guidance. People need concrete steps.

I used to stress myself out in anticipation of work. I really like my teaching job, and want to perform well, so I’d clutter my head with to-do lists to stay organized.. Each morning in the shower, I would plan the work day in my mind, thinking of lesson plans to write, photocopies to make, tests to grade.

It took an epiphany (an article in Oprah magazine) for me to see that those mornings were exhausting. Going through the work day in my head left me mentally weary before even leaving the house. I made a small resolution not to think about work until I set foot out the door each morning. It took getting used to, but now I start the day feeling good and letting my mind wake up slowly. Try it.

A better idea? Add some peaceful activities to your life. Start a gratitude journal. Take walks after dinner. Meditate. Pray. Be thankful for a new year, awkward brunches and all.

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