How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Every January 1st, millions of Americans make resolutions to better themselves. And yet so many of us find it hard to maintain these new habits. Here are a few tips.

  • Losing Weight. Know why it costs $1.50 to join a gym this week? Because they love all the suckers who exercise three times in January and then never come in again. They’ll still charge your credit card, and your yoga mat will emit waves of guilt from the back of the closet. This is such a difficult resolution to keep, I recommend a different approach: buy another pair of your favorite jeans and size up an inch in the waist. Throw away the old pair. My, look how loosely your clothes hang!
  • Volunteering. Do you mean you only work for money? You never do anything just for the feeling of helping your fellow man? Then volunteer! So the argument goes. If you feel bad about not volunteering now, imagine how much worse you’ll feel by Groundhog’s Day when you realize you’ve been too hungover to fulfill your time slot at the Shady Oaks Senior Center. (Twice.) Are you ready to make that call around mid-March and tell Jill (she’s so earnest!) you can no longer help because “you’re going through some stuff right now”? The truth is most of us are too busy making ends meet to help others. However: we have unemployed friends, right? Friends with very open schedules and a need to vent about their problems? Invite them over once a week. Let them ramble. Be sure to note how many of your beers they drink, too; you can probably write ’em off tax-wise.
  • Going Back to School, Part 1. In theory, enrolling in a continuing education course is great. And why not? The New School’s brochure is a cornucopia of possible New You’s (Does the New You prefer “Introduction to Pottery” to “Russian Literature 101”?). But every Thursday? For 90 minutes? For six weeks? Instead, set aside a Sunday evening once a month to watch TED videos while eating ice cream.
  • Going Back to School, Part 2. Graduate school? Are you kidding? Unless you’re thinking law or medicine, forget about it. Ask yourself this: Have you ever met someone at a cocktail party and heard, “Oh, I got my fulfilling and well-paying job because of my graduate degree.” …I thought so.
  • Page-a-Day Calendars. Who wouldn’t like to learn a new word every day? And then surreptitiously use it at the 11am meeting? (“That sales demo is downright ersatz, Glen.”) Let’s face it. It’s hard to remember to rip off a new page every morning. You say you don’t look ahead, but of course you do. We all do. And though it’s a small gesture, ripping off a new page to uncover one you’ve already sneaked a peek at is a little nugget of depression your day doesn’t need (more of). Abandon this particular New Year’s resolution. It’s rigged for failure.
  • Calling your parents and telling them you love them. You know how awkward this is? What do you say after? You can’t just transition into the weather or how happy you are for Aunt Brenda. Besides, it’s 2011. Phones? Really? Here’s what you do: “Like” five posts by your mom and five posts by your dad on their Facebook walls. Don’t skimp either. They did raise you after all.
  • Writing more letters by hand. Bringing back the lost art of writing epistles would be more rewarding if your handwriting hadn’t deteriorated into epileptic chickenscratch since college. (There’s a reason Al Gore invented email.) At the root of this resolution is the wish to acknowledge the past while providing something new to do at cafés. Completely understandable. If we unravel the motivation here further, your next step is clear: Actually introduce yourself to the cute barista, the one who puts on the good music. If you need an opening line, how about: “That Broken Social Scene record’s so ersatz, right?”
  • Biking to work. Great for the environment, plus you work out more. The problem here is most of us are dead tired at 7am. And no amount of caffeine will help you negotiate traffic and the other well-meaning cyclists. Primal lizard-brain adrenaline is what you need. Before you begin your inaugural ride, research your neighborhood meter maid’s morning route. Then buzz by, knock off his police officer’s cap, and exclaim, “You’re not a real cop!” Your flight instincts will kick in nicely and should add enough excitement to make your new commute a permanent habit.
  • Paying alimony on time. Banks can now schedule automatic payments. It’s really, really easy. Denise is with this new guy she met at the club, and he’s been talking about kicking your ass if you’re late again. I heard he used to be a lineman for a Division I team. Just what I heard.
  • Eating fruits and vegetables in season. Perfect, except “in season” for January is potatoes. You don’t want to get caught lustily eyeing someone’s peach cobbler at a restaurant. What if you just ate “in season” when your favorite fruits and vegetables were in season? That seems logical.
  • Watching that one documentary that’s sat in your Netflix Instant queue for six months. You will never “feel like” watching Food, Inc. Just delete it.
  • Reading more books. This is another resolution full of good intentions, and abandoned the minute the next Halo game arrives. You have to set aside time to read. This is itself problematic: it makes reading feel like homework. What about reading more during the activities you already enjoy? Pick the subtitled version of that Japanese action film. You just read for 90 minutes! Another tip: keep the New York Times site open on your desktop while you watch cat movies on YouTube. (You can skim the headlines while you wait for the videos to load.) You’ll be the toast of the party when you say, “Have you seen the reggaeton remix of that pile of kittens? And did you know Hilary Clinton is the Secretary of State?”
Hope this helps. Here’s to a 2011 full of self-improvement!

1 Comment

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One response to “How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Dan

    My only New Year’s Resolution is to use the word “avuncular” in conversation. Just throw it in as often as applicable. Happy New Year’s!!!

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