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Alternative to New Years Resolutions

By Signal 11 in Op-Ed
Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 08:05:59 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Okay, you've all heard about New Years resolutions, and your last one was probably "do last year's new years resolution". A few of you don't see the utility of it at all. Therefore, I propose an alternative: Write a letter to yourself.

It's strange, and silly, and I can understand the strange looks... but hear me out! I'm not the type to set goals and then then go off on a holy quest to fufill my deepest year-long desire - I mean, I've been saying I'm going to go to the gym for the past, er, well... since before Kuro5hin was around. Somehow I never do - maybe it's the idea of stinky, smelly, and hairy guys on steroids. Can't figure out why that would bother me though! :) Actually, it's just that I'm a lazy bum - I'd stay in bed 'til noon every day if I could. If you're one of those types, then this idea is for you.

Basically, it works like this - you write a letter to yourself and instead of writing about your goals and ambitions and all that future crap... write about yourself, as you are right now. Be honest - what's good and what's bad in your life? Be funny - sign it "me, myself and I" or something. But the important part is to get a good image of yourself (just for you, so be honest!) down on paper. Recount what's happened over the last year... how much have you grown and changed? Just write! Then, when it's all done, seal it up in an envelope and throw it in the post. Now you can't open it for 365 days (one year), until the next New Year's comes around when you can open it. You can share it with your friends then - but not before. It's a time capsule!

What's the point? The point for me is that a New Years resolution is defeatist - you don't know what's going to happen in a year, how can you be so sure you'll even make your goal anyway? Then you'll feel like a failure when it doesn't happen. So instead, I wanted to do something that would keep to the spirit of things, but be more "me" - an image of myself, so that I could remember what's happened over the past year, and reflect on how much more I've learned and grown. I've been doing something like this for my birthday since I was about eighteen, I figure it's a good time to share... and to move the date forward to when everyone else is out being reflective. :)

Cheers, and Happy New Year!


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Alternative to New Years Resolutions | 20 comments (12 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
I've been meaning to do that... (3.33 / 3) (#1)
by Echo5ive on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 01:06:05 PM EST

For at least two years I've told myself, "I should really be more active, even if it's nothing more than walking around the block with the dogs once a day."

No luck so far, though I at least walk the dogs a few times a week, before returning to the comfort of my computers. :-)

I already keep an online diary (no, not Blogger-powered). I have a reader or two, but I don't keep an online diary for other people to read - I write it for myself, mostly. Though I have to admit I wouldn't write anything at all if other people didn't have an ability to read it.

I've suffered from a major depression, and it was actually shocking to read my diary from back then. How I have changed...

And my new year's resolution: I'll be more active and move more, even if it will just be walking the dogs daily. I need it - not that I'm overweight (18,78 body mass index), but I have a really lousy physical condition.

Frozen Skies: mental masturbation.

An alternative to your alternative (4.16 / 6) (#3)
by sfischer on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 01:44:25 PM EST

I like your idea of a time capsule letter. If I was to do that, I might try to save it for more than a year, but that's not the point of this comment.

Another idea you might try if you want to change something, is writing your letter to yourself, pretending that it is a year from now and you're describing to somehow how you've changed over the past year. Pretend it's January 1, 2003 and you're talking to a best friend and reminiscing about how things are so much better.

"Remember last year when I was so overweight? Well look at me know, I've lost 30 pounds and 4 inches off my waistline. It's great too because I had to get rid of a whole bunch of clothes and look how great this new outfit looks!!"

A key to this is to be very specific. Rather than talking about losing weight or exercising more, list the specifics (lose 30 pounds or work out at the gym twice a week) AND the side-effects of those goals (new clothes, increased stamina, people finding you attractive, whatever).

You'd want to keep this letter taped to your mirror or in your dayplanner and occasionally visit it to remind yourself through the year on where you want to be.

There is a trick to making this work and I'm learning how to do it. A book I read recently, The Path of Least Resistance, by Robert Fritz, talks about how people oscillate between working hard for what they want and giving up and going back to doing what they normally do by default. The trick is to create a gap, a need, a hole so that your default thing you do is the thing you want to be doing. It seems to make sense and I'm trying it out right now.

In any case, good luck with your letters and resolutions. I'll probably write one myself.


Maybe, just maybe... (4.00 / 7) (#4)
by jd on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 01:45:27 PM EST

Part of the problem is that these are "shoulds". Should, at least for me, has a very parental, arrogant, authoratarian tone to it. "You should be taking out the trash! You should be doing your homework, not listening to that... noise!"

I can't speak for anyone else, but if I spent New Years Eve/Day telling myself that kind of crap - essentially verbally beating myself to death - wild horses couldn't drag me into doing any of it. Of course I'd resent it!

And THAT, I believe, is the key to why such resolutions fail. We resent them. We resent the smug, know-it-all attitude that often lies behind such "resolutions".

Substituting "should" with "try" is even worse. "I'll try to do XYZ better" really means "I don't give a shit, but I think someone else might, so I've got to make it look like I'm making an effort."

This year, if you want Yet Another Alternative Suggestion, try this. Give yourself a break! Don't set yourself up for failure. You do NOT need to start the new year feeling miserable, resentful, angry, and/or a failure. Too many people do just that, which is why they spend the rest of the year making everyone else miserable, to make up for it.

If you need to set a goal, then set this one: I'll do the best I can at balancing my own needs with my own wants, with others needs, and with others wants.

This is something you almost can't fail to achieve, as it's what you're already doing, automatically, every day. The only purpose in having such a resolution is to start thinking about what you are doing, so you can fine-tune it, if, when and where you choose to.

ANY other resolution you can make that you CAN succeed at doing MUST follow from this one. The only question is where you've set the balance. That is all. In fact, not only will every resolution that you can succeed at follow from it, but so will everything you DO succeed at! Again, the only question is where you've set the balance.

So, that's something you've got to add. State where you are comfortable having that balance, between all four variables. Not as absolutes, because you're going to have different balances at work, at home, or out shopping, or whatever. But just some general abstract notion of where you're setting your limits.

Once you do that, the resolutions you might have otherwise written have a much better chance of actually happening, because you're not being set up to fail. And you might actually HAVE a "happy new year", for a change!

I agree about "should" and "try&quo (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by sfischer on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 01:50:21 PM EST

one of my favorite quotations by Michelangelo is:
"The greatest danger is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
Yes, people need to set realistic goals and not overcommit and set themselves up for failure. But you never know what you can do if you don't "swing for the fences" and really push yourself.


[ Parent ]

Yet Another Alternative Suggestion (none / 0) (#15)
by cyberdruid on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 07:32:17 PM EST

In "7 habits of highly effective people", Covey writes:
"A good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it's personal, it's positive, it's present tense, it's visual and it's emotional. So I
might write something like this: 'It is deeply satisfying (emotional) that I (personal) respond (present tense) with wisdom, love, firmenss
and self-control (positive) when my children misbehave.'"
To take the example of the gym in the story, you will not be "verbally beating yourself to death", if you take the approach:
"Damn! I love that smug, self-satisfied feeling I get when I have been to the gym." Learn to manage yourself by getting high on the promise of being disgustingly satisfied with yourself instead of being afraid of the threat of self-loathing. The common approach: "If I don't do this, things will get really bad" will only get you down. Learn to think: "I will do this, because I know how good it makes me feel when I am done". Also, learn to feel really good when you are done, so that you'll belive yourself the next time. If it helps, give yourself some kind of reward.

To get the visual part in, it really can help to visualize (yep, I know it's cliché, but there's a reason for it). In the gym-example, vividly see the toned/slim/pumped you before your inner eye, feel and experience how good and self-confident you make yourself in your new body (don't feel bad about your current one, just feel good about the future one). Always concentrate on the reward.
If the result is really worth working for, then experiencing it should be enough to get you going.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps another alternative to a resolution... (3.20 / 5) (#9)
by Kasreyn on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 03:48:08 PM EST

...a new years' prayer.

I'm not religious myself, but I remember what it was like. And this year has seen some horrific things. There's been a lot of cruelty, a lot of intolerance, and a lot of needless death. I hope any religious K5ers will do what I can't, and pray that next year will be kinder to the human race.

As for me, my resolution is private, but I have one. ^_^ And I think I can do it. It's not defeatist to hope - it's only defeatist to give up without really trying.

Hope all my fellow K5ers have a safe and happy holidays & new years'.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Do it now (4.66 / 3) (#14)
by Macrobat on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 02:16:28 PM EST

I forget where I read it, but the lesson itself never left me: New Year's resolutions are a variation on the "I'll quit smoking when this pack runs out" theme, i.e., putting off making the change until some arbitrary point in the future. It rarely works. There's always another pack to run down, or another year (if we're lucky enough to live that long). Besides, it's giving up responsibility for a fundamental aspect of the action: the starting point.

Do it now. As soon as you discern the need for change, change now. Change your diet (which is not the same as "going on a diet," another recipe for failure). Soak the cigarettes and get the patch if you need it. You'll be much more likely to succeed.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.

"Diet" a recipe for failure? (none / 0) (#19)
by vectro on Sun Jan 06, 2002 at 04:32:50 PM EST

Given that you accept the "rubber bag" model of weight management:

change in weight = ((calories in) - (metabolism)) * 3500 (cal/lb)

then in order to effect weight change it is necessary to either increase one's calorie expenditue (e.g., via exercise) or decrease one's food intake (eating fewer calories), or both.

Furthermore, assuming one takes only the second option, such reduction need only be temporary.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Read my post again. (none / 0) (#20)
by Macrobat on Sun Jan 06, 2002 at 10:54:15 PM EST

Here's what I said:

Change your diet (which is not the same as "going on a diet," another recipe for failure).
"Going on a diet" implies that you will just change your eating habits until you've reached the desired weight. When people do that, almost inevitably, once they've reached target weight, they lose motivation to stay on the diet, and begin eating the same foods and quantities that made them overweight in the first place.

"Changing your diet" implies that you are making a permanent lifestyle change, avoiding foods that have excess calories and focusing on things that provide you with the requisite nutrients and satisfy your hunger so you don't continually crave bad things. It's usually slower than crash dieting, but the benefits are much more likely to be permanent.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

Be goal oriented (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by krait on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 09:50:39 PM EST

Setting goals for yourself is (I believe) an integral part of being a human being. Whether you achieve those goals or not is immaterial. It's striving for them that counts.

I agree with the previous comment that said "Do it now". The New Year is no time to set a goal - any time is.

If you perceive a lack in you life, or a desire you wish to fulfill, set a goal now and aim towards it!

Yeah, resolutions can be traps (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by svanegmond on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 11:54:25 AM EST

For me, I've been resolving on January 1st for some years now to improve my health, and generally getting not much farther with it over time. Finally, in October during a trip to England, I just finally said 'screw it' and called myself vegetarian. And it worked. I'd had the other half of the equation - being active - down a long time ago. The resolutions were an irrational thing to pin my hopes on. That said, this year I decided to follow one of the few good ideas to come out of my company's HR department, and make the goals SMART:

Specific (no ambiguity in the wording)
Measurable (use specific numbers, measures, percentages to measure success),
Action-oriented ("I will do [x]"),
Time-bound (i.e. a target date),
Stretching (i..e that represent some amount of work on your part).
Though mostly in the "duh, yeah" realm, this HRism turneed out to be useful.

I usually try to make at least one resolution each inwardly and outwardly focused. This year, I've decided:

  1. Get laser eye surgery with my wife.
  2. Join a project in the realm of P2P, trust, and reputation, and become recognized as a significant (>20%) contributor, as measured by CVS commits.
The specific idea I had last night is probably not new; I just have to find those doing it right now and pitch in.
-- Steve van Egmond · http://svan.ca/
Old years resolutions (none / 0) (#18)
by thezany on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 02:33:10 AM EST

New Year's resolutions never worked for me, so a little lateral thinking led me to the Old Year's Resolution:

Think of one thing that you will NOT do again, not just this year, but ever again.

It's more difficult than you'd think and it'll get self-reflection going in a way that New Year's resolutions don't.

I'll let you know in 2003 whether or not I succeeded in eliminating the One Bad Habit.

Happy 2002!

Alternative to New Years Resolutions | 20 comments (12 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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