Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Because we tend to set grandiose goals for the wondrous, New Year™, we frequently set goals that are very difficult to attain and consequently, set ourselves up for failure. For instance, how many times have we resolved to do something big like exercise every day, or never yell at the kids ever again? Then how does it make us feel when we inevitably fail to keep up that behavior for an entire year? Exactly.

When we operate under the impression that we have to bequeath a grandiose gift to the New Year™, our expectations for ourselves are, in my opinion, unrealistic. Just as we gain self-esteem by accomplishing goals, we lose self-esteem every time we fail. The loftier the goal (if it's for the New Year™, we have to make it count, right?) the harder the failure hits us. At least that’s true for me. The few times I tried to set New Year’s Resolutions and only kept them for a few weeks, I felt terrible. In retrospect, I see that the problem was that my expectations for myself were unreasonable, and I had set myself up for certain failure.

Instead of setting overarching goals for the New Year™, I propose that we instead set goals with a much more limited scope. Instead of resolving to make some great change over the course of a year, why not determine to do something differently tomorrow? Instead of “This year I resolve to lose 25 pounds,” let us say, “Tomorrow I will exercise and not overeat.” If we fail at keeping a daily goal, we can always renew the resolution the next day, and the sting of failure is not felt as keenly.

Seriously, how many of us, when we flub a New Year’s resolution say, “OK. I blew it today, but I can always pick back up tomorrow and keep my resolution for the majority of the year”? I bet none of us do. I think we say instead, “Great. I blew it again. Oh well. There’s always the next New Year™.” Then we proceed to hold on to our bad habits until there is another New Year™ worthy of our sacred resolutions.

This year. Wait. No. From now on, I resolve to do more introspection and set more short-term goals. Tomorrow I will be patient when my children forget to use their inside voice or interrupt me when I’m talking to Rebecca. They will go to sleep, completely secure in the knowledge that I love them with all my heart and think they’re the most special children to ever live. I have other resolutions for tomorrow, but I think I’ll keep them to myself :-)

Happy New Year and Happy Tomorrow!


Jeni said...

Tomorrow I will go to bed before 1:15 in the morning. Wait it is tomorrow. So do I mean today? No, I guess I had it right in the first place then. Right? I don't know. I can't think straight at 1:15 in the morning.

Rebecca said...

Happy New Year to you too! Even if it's not actually New Year's Day. If you want, I'll even replay the obligatory midnight kiss. ;)

This is a fantastic post. You know my feelings on New Year's resolutions, so I won't elaborate. The self-esteem issue is why I like to make smaller goals.

Are you going to let me know your resolutions for tomorrow?

Heather of the EO said...

So true! I'm so glad that there's that whole "mercies are new every morning" thing because if we take it day by day, we really can resolve to change even just that one day. Baby steps...:)

She's in the kitchen! said...

I have actually never made a New Year's resolution! We are always too busy looking through seed catalogs and planning our garden. That's what the new year means to....starting the cycle all over again, hoping to accomplish new things. Hey, is that a sort of/kind of resolution?!!

LexiconLuvr said...

I love this post. Not just because I constantly set myself up for failure but because of the idea behind it.
I wholeheartedly support the bettering of oneself by setting simple, easy tasks. After all, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."

I should like to look over my life and see that I substantially improved over time in small increments rather than one or two brief bursts. Eternal progression: that's my goal

p.s. What a wonderful father you are!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Way to go! I haven't made NY resolutions for years. Ironically, I did this year. I know I am still keeping up with a few of them b/c I can think what they are-the others are already forgotten. Way to go! (or did I say that already?)

Heidi Ashworth said...

Ah, nuts, now I have to go and find out what they are. I blame you.