Why you should ditch the New Year’s resolutions

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It’s that time. Christmas music, shoppers looking for deals on things they don’t need and can’t afford, an orgy of eating and drinking ruining a year’s worth of healthy living. Tis’ the season to be jolly – never mind your bank account, your scale or your liver. After all, you only live once.

Moreover, this year is almost done, so we get to start over. Yet another chance to become that better person: slimmer, nonsmoking, responsible. You just hang the new calendar and BAM! A new you is about to emerge. Whole industries, from treadmill vendors to juicer makers, rely upon this recurring miracle to help their bottom line.

Unfortunately, then the party’s over. Real work begins. Whipped by guilt, we muddle through January struggling to keep our promises. By February, most of New Year’s resolutions went up in smoke. Only 8% of them ever come to fruition.

Why?

There’s no worse time to make resolutions than New Year’s. You’re chock-full of food and drink, exhausted by parties, and overwhelmed by guilt. To atone, you’ll agree to whatever your conscience demands. “OK. Starting on January 1st, I’ll stop eating, drinking, and smoking. I’ll get up at 4AM to work out.” By February, the treadmill crumbles under the weight of clothes, the gym membership expired, and you subsist on donuts, cake, and whatever junk gets you through the day.

So, if you’re into resolutions, make them in June, when days are long, pools open, trails snowless, and fruit and vegetables abound. Life is easier in summer.

Even better, forget the resolutions. They’re nothing but a showy way to announce that you’re about to change. Don’t bother with announcing, just change. Just do it, whether it’s November 23rd or Friday 13th. Well, maybe not Friday 13th. Wait till Saturday.

To succeed, you’ll need a plan that includes:

  • How you’ll go about making the changes,
  • What obstacles you foresee
  • How will you avoid them, and, most importantly,
  • How you’ll get back on the wagon after you fall off.

Because you will. I know. I quit smoking 24 years ago. Not once. Not twice. Thirty, maybe? I stopped counting, but I did it.

Even more important than planning for your change, is planning for your life.

Every once in a great while – yearly, maybe – you need to have a leisurely conversation with yourself. Get in touch with the person underneath the daily emergencies, the perpetual worries, the running around the clock. The person who lives inside your soul, but you seldom get to talk to.

Take time to examine your life and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I living the life I want?
  2. Is this the life I hope to have in a year?
  3. Is this where I want to be in ten years?

If you answered YES to all, you’re golden. Keep on doing what you’re doing.  Every once in a great while check to make sure you’re still on track. If your answer is NO, you have work to do. You need to build a life that makes you happy.

How?

Start with the end and map back. Where do you want to be? You are the only one who has the answers. You need to find them.

What about your life makes you unhappy? A bad marriage? A lousy job? Bad health? Maybe there’s nothing wrong per se, but you long for things that are out of your reach. Perhaps you want kids or hope to become famous or wish to see the world. I don’t know, but you should. Look inside and find out what you’re missing.

That may be hard. Shiny objects will distract you. You may think you need a bigger house since your spouse gets on your nerves. You may look for a new hairdo if you don’t like who you see in the mirror.  You may plan a vacation if you hate going to work. And you may be right. But if that doesn’t fix your problem, they’re just distractions. To get to the heart of the matter you need to go beyond them. The bigger house, the vacation, the hair, they’re all temporary fixes. It’s like taking Motrin for a headache when you have cancer: you feel better, but you didn’t fix the problem. Then years fly, and you’re still where you started instead of where you need to be. You need to find the real issues.

Once you figured out what you need, you have to go and get it. The first step is narrowly defining your question: “How do I get to make 100K a year?” “How do I write a play?” “How to travel the world and get paid for it? ”

Once you have the question, look for the answer: Talk to people; go to the library; look it up on the internet. How did others do it?

Then make it happen. You’ll need a plan with clear steps, and SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

Schedule times to reassess. Are you on track? If you are, Kudos to you. If you’re not, get back on the wagon and start over. Persist until you reach your goal. Then celebrate, and monitor.

This is my gift to you: Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I offer you a life plan that will get you to where you want to be.

Make a date with yourself.

  1. Think about your life. Are you where you want to be? If not,
  2. Make a plan.
  3. Write it down.
  4. Post it and send it to your friends to keep you accountable.
  5. Reassess it often – set reminders.
  6. Get back on track whenever you stray.

Isn’t that better than a treadmill gathering dust? That’s how I got from doing dishes in cold water in Romania to volunteering with dogs in Thailand. Let me know how you did. I’m rooting for you.

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Rada Jones MD. is an Emergency Doc in Upstate NY and the author of three ER novels: OVERDOSE, MERCY, and POISON.

 

2 thoughts on “Why you should ditch the New Year’s resolutions

  1. I love this! It sounds almost word for word what I’ve been telling myself for the last couple of years. I miss you my friend.

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