Friday, January 18, 2013

The (sort of) official New Year's Resolutions Ditch Day

This column, like many others, first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on DallasNews.com. Because there is no archive of my humor columns there, I let some time pass before posting the columns here.

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You woke up on New Year’s Day, perhaps a little groggy after sleeping on a party hat or a plastic champagne flute, filled with motivation to get it together in 2013. Two weeks later, you’re more organized, hitting the gym, eating healthier and tackling your budget.

Or, uh, maybe you’re still “about to get on that.” Or maybe you’re just looking forward to the next holiday:

Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions Day.

It arrives every Jan. 17, although not in any official capacity. We’re about as likely to get time off work for other commemorative days this month, such as National Peanut Brittle Day, Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, or the edifying, unmitigatedly necessitous Thesaurus Day.

The ditch-your-resolution day isn’t a reason to celebrate, but there’s a good reason why it exists. We’re pretty legendary for flopping on New Year’s resolutions.

Well, we don't want them to go to waste ...
In 2007, British psychologist Richard Wiseman asked 3,000 people about their New Year’s resolutions. By doing that, he proved that you can waste a lot of time and money on a ridiculous survey. But his results did give us a glimpse of our weakness, because he found an 88 percent failure rate.

Six years later, we’re no more committed. Sometimes people pack it in on resolutions before packing away the inflatable Santa.

(And, by the way, if you still have an inflatable Santa in your front yard, the homeowners association would like a word with you.)

I don’t own an inflatable Santa, but my New Year’s resolutions are usually deflated by now. The only reason 2013 is different is because I forgot to make one. First there was the holiday rush, then the kids were out of school, and by the time I really thought about a resolution, January was here. The year was only a week old and I was already trying to catch up.

I think that’s part of the reason why New Year’s resolutions have such a high failure rate.

To succeed at a resolution to eat less, drink less, spend less or something like that, you need a major overhaul. You need energy to break stubborn habits, and we lack that as we emerge from the holiday splurge with droopy eyes and sluggish feet. Our bold proclamations are just hot air blown into a cold winter day.

And so we often fail. Our resolutions begin with bells, whistles and romantic notions, and then they end quickly with a blast of reality. It’s kind of like your garden variety celebrity marriage. Fortunately, your broken vows won’t get you pestered by paparazzi asking if that extra-large pizza is part of your get-fit plan.

And since you don't want it to go to your waist ...
Part of my plan to be more healthy a few years ago was to cut out caffeine. I’ve never drank coffee and tea doesn’t do much for me, and so I thought if I pulled back on the soda, that would be a significant step toward better health. Just as important, it would still leave room for extra-large pizzas.

I made it about four days, at which point I was ready to dead lift a vending machine and shake out a 12-ounce fix. There was no way I was going to succeed at that resolution. To think I ever could was ridiculous.

What I needed was a more realistic effort. Cut back a little, then a little more. Small changes. That that could work.

That doesn’t mean it did work. But I didn’t fail, because I’ve decided that cutting back on caffeine is a new life resolution. It’s a work in progress, taking its place on the to-do list with “finish the novel” and “order the PX90 workout and get ripped abs!”

So, yeah, I’m classified in the 88 percent.

But we don’t need to put a timeline on our resolutions or ditch them every year. We should just keep pursuing them, while always remembering that the important thing is to keep moving in the right direction.

If that’s sounds overly simplistic, well, you might be right. But I’m an optimist.

And I think the caffeine is starting to kick in.

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