Friday, January 7, 2011

New Years Resolutions

I was in a bookstore the other day and I was astounded by the huge displays of books about weight loss and exercise on the same shelves that just weeks before had books about cooking with duck fat for the holidays. Like so many other things in our world, the idea of New Years Resolutions has been co-opted by those who would take our money in their name. When something like this happens, meaning is lost for the benefit of institutionalization.

I think there's a certain brilliance in New Years resolutions. The chance to start anew is really ever present to us, but to have a cultural tradition based around this notion should be able to give us more powerful *ahem* resolve in this matter. While the distinction of when the year starts is totally arbitrary (we may as well say that the year changes every April 1st or March 21st or October 9th or whatever), it is still a powerful time of year for global consciousness all focused on the notion of renewal.

We needn't wait for a certain time of year to renew ourselves. We can do it any day, any second; we never have to have allegiance to our old habits and our old behaviors. We may have to pay for them, but we don't have to keep them and keep identifying with them, we can change. The idea that we are stuck in the quagmire of our past, unable to move forward due to mistakes we have made and paths we have chosen is an idea that keeps us down and keeps us complacent to the very things we are trying to escape.

I feel like the institutionalization of Resolutions actually helps to keep us stuck in that quagmire. It keeps the notion of being stuck with our past actions, inescapable without spending money, fresh in our minds. It reinforces the powerlessness that we feel in trying to modify our own behaviors.

Seeing celebrities plastered all over the covers of the latest diet books really makes me feel like a tool for even making New Years Resolutions. But the more I think about it, the more merit resolutions have and the more I think we should pass it on to our kids before the marketers are the ones who do it.

I welcome the excuse of New Years to make my own resolutions. I'll take any excuse; a birthday, a season change, a sunrise, a bell toll. I've wanted to get in better shape for years. Many years more than I care to admit to. Every single year, I say that it's my number one resolution. Clearly, it hasn't worked as well as I would like it to.

I think the problem with most resolutions is that they are unspecific. This year I'm making resolutions and I'm making them as specific as possible. Instead of saying that I want to be in better shape, I'm setting specific goals, I'm outlining what I need to do to meet those goals. Instead of saying that I want to get a book published, I'm setting goals and schedules to make it happen.

I'd love to hear any other tips that y'all out there might have about resolutions. I'd love to hear what some of them are, what has worked in the past, and which ones you ditched and why.

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