Being Resolute in Your New Year’s Resolutions
Living species, such as ourselves, are always looking for a fresh start. That’s why people love the beginning of springtime. It represents a chance to start over. In nature, the various cubs and pups are born, vegetation returns, bears awaken from hibernation, and baseball’s spring training begins. (Spring training, or “Mathematically Eliminated” as it’s known around the New York Mets headquarters.)
However, since we’re humans, and the most superior of all species, (Yes nature lovers, humans are the most superior of all species on Earth. There’s nothing that an animal can do better than we Homo sapiens. Have you ever read a blog written by a giraffe, they’re all the same. “Which trees have the tastiest leaves?” blah, blah, blah.) our symbolic day to begin again is the arbitrary date known as “New Year’s Day,” or January 1st. January 1st is with just a few exceptions, the recognized day throughout much of the world where the calendar turns over, and the year begins anew. It is the “do-over” that arrives every year at the same time, and at least figuratively, allows all of us to ponder what it is about ourselves we would like to change.
Many of us will walk in to a gym or some sort of workout facility shortly after January 1st, and this is the scene that will greet us. Fret not, if you come back the second week of January, you should have the gym pretty much to yourself. (You Tube)
While most of us enjoy some standard of celebratory behavior between Thanksgiving and New Yea’s Eve, it also seems to be a time of reflection. There are many among us who I believe will at some point stop, pause, and think, “I’m eating and drinking a lot more than I usually do, and I’m also spending a lot of hard-earned money on “stuff,” and I’m not sure that this is the way I want to continue.” In fact, I’m fairly certain that for many people, these thoughts regarding reflection and self-doubt most likely manifest themselves much earlier in the calendar year. However, there’s something about New Year’s Day that provides us with a sense of symmetry when it comes to finding just the right day to begin whatever physical or behavioral journey of change we wish to embark upon.
For people of the Jewish faith, Rosh Hashanah, the new year on the Hebrew calendar, marks the beginning of a 10-day time period of repentance. In the 10 days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, observant Jews are required to practice Teshuvah, or repentance. During these 10 days, Jews seek out ways to improve as people, often through prayer, acts of charity, and self-reflection. Basically, if you are Jewish, you are forever saddled with your “Jewish guilt,” and this means that every Rosh Hashanah, or New Year, you can just assume that you’ve done a bunch of things you shouldn’t have, and therefore, it’s a pretty safe bet that you need to start repenting. However, for Christians, and for all who follow the Gregorian calendar, you have to decide for yourself whether you can improve upon who you are as a person. The fact that you get to decide for yourself whether you wish to improve does provide most people with a little lighter burden to bear. If there’s one thing that we as humans excel at, it’s forgiving ourselves when it comes to our shortcomings.
If you’re Jewish, and it’s Yom Kippur, you needn’t make any plans for the day, or worry about what you’re going to eat. The picture above pretty much encapsulates the entire day for the observant Jew. If a full day of fasting and prayer doesn’t cleanse your soul, you may want to seek out a “Swamy” or some sort of shaman for a second opinion. (New York Times)
Since most New Year’s resolutions revolve around personal improvement through goals one sets for oneself, you typically only have yourself to disappoint, as well as to blame when things go awry, and go awry they typically do. Why is that? How come we so often fail in our New Year’s resolutions? Is it the goals that we are setting? Are they too difficult to achieve, or are they too far removed from our character? In other words, when we set these self-improvement goals, we are often asking something of ourselves that is foreign to our genetic make-up. Sure, we can temporarily discipline ourselves, and make the kind of improvements that can bring us satisfactory results, but in the long run we may in fact be doomed to fail.
Unfortunately, most New Year’s resolutions do fail. In fact, according to huffingtonpost.com, only eight percent of all people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. Apparently a couple of small failures or set backs are enough to derail the best of intentions. Why is the bitter smell of failure never far from our “good intentions?” Well, according to author Lou Gray, (thoughtcatalog.com.) there are seven things you can never change about someone, and they include…
How they feel - Imagine if you could simply say, “I’m going to feel differently about things.” Think about how much power that would give you. That would literally be a “super power.” If you could announce that you are no longer going to be a worrier, or get agitated over little things, or get upset over the things that people say about you, or even become jealous, you would find yourself living a life of complete inner peace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
Their issues with their family - It is common knowledge that we are all to a large degree, products of our families. People who come from troubled families either leave and strike out on their own, or become consumed by the drama that their families ensnare them in.
Their bad habits - This is ironic, because it is our “bad habits” that we usually use our New Year’s resolutions to change. Therefore, we are probably destined to fail when it comes to this attempt. Our bad habits are apparently here to stay.
Their body - This is the other aspect of ourselves that we often pledge to address through our New Year’s resolutions. Again, depending on which cards we draw from our DNA stacked deck, it may not matter how hard we push ourselves in the gym. While some people are fortunate enough to draw “four aces,” when it comes to their body type, it is far more challenging to carve out a muscular “bod” when we have been dealt a couple of flabby twos, threes, and fours regarding what nature has given us physically.
That terrible band/TV show that they love - Well, who’s to say that a band or a television program is “terrible.” One man’s Keeping up with the Kardashians is another man’s Masterpiece Theater.
Their Past - Like an individual’s family background, there’s usually not a whole lot you can do to help a person escape their past. If somebody was kidnapped and became a member of a cult or something demented like that, telling them to grow a mustache and eat more seafood most likely won’t be the panacea that they are in search of in order to become the change that they wish to be. In other words, the past is the past, and there’s not a whole lot anybody can do to change that.
Their Priorities - Well, I’m not sure I agree with this one. I believe that if you could demonstrate to somebody what it is that they really want, you could get them to at least reconsider their priorities.
Before you can commit to any kind of resolution of self-improvement, you have to first see yourself honestly. I’m not sure who’s who in this picture, but one of these individuals may not be seeing themselves accurately. (You Tube)
We are imperfect beasts to say the least. While some people do seem to drift through life blissfully unaware of their flaws, others are so self-critical, they can barely enjoy their lives. Somewhere in between these two extremes lie most of the population. We aren’t very good at saying no to ourselves, so if we’re lucky, we might just be able to make one affirmative change in our lives per year. Here are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions that most of us either will attempt, or have attempted over the course of our lives.
Lose Weight - This is the granddaddy of them all. Almost every American, particularly coming out of the holidays usually feels that they could and or should lose a few pounds. Interestingly, most of us need to lose 10 or 15 pounds going into Thanksgiving, but by the time we reach New Year’s Day, that number climbs to about 25. Most of us figure we’re going to diet anyway after New Year’s so why not amp up our calorie total to about 5000 per day.
Exercise More - This doesn’t necessarily mean losing weight as much as it is an attempt to heal the whole body in order to find an approach for feeling better. If you are planning to go to the gym during the week of January 1st, you might as well wait a week. The first week of the new year is the time when every individual who has ever done a sit-up, or has ever purchased a pair of “Yoga Pants,” meanders their way into the local gym. Fear not, by the second week of January, you’ll have the place to yourself.
Save Money - This one is bound to fail since much of what we wish to achieve in the upcoming year usually costs money, so really what you would be better off doing in order to achieve your resolution or resolutions is to get a second job so you can afford whatever resolution you are attempting to fulfill.
Get Organized - What does this even mean? You can’t even quantify this. “Hey check me out, I’m 25% more organized than I was last year.” I actually saw this on a list of popular New Year’s resolutions, but I misplaced the list and now I can’t find it.
Learn Something New - This usually includes trying to master something like learning how to play guitar, or an activity you were previously afraid to do like skiing, or perhaps taking a class in swing dancing. I can relate to this resolution because I’ve tried to master all of these activities thanks to previous New Year’s resolutions, and failed at all of the above. The upside, I’ve got a better feel for who I am.
Travel More - Well, if you’re also trying to save money, this one is bound to fail. I mean, who doesn’t want to travel more? Really, this resolution can easily be translated into “Make more money.”
Break Your Smartphone Addiction - I’m pretty sure that this is impossible. In fact, don’t even bother trying. Rather, make a resolution to spend more time on your Smartphone. Who are you hurting anyway? If you really had friends, you wouldn’t be spending so much time on your phone in the first place.
Stop Smoking - This one is worth while since it will most likely save your life. However, and we all know this so I’m not even going to lie. Smoking makes you cool, and everybody knows that. Humphrey Bogart would never have been such a weakling and announced to the world that he was going to quit smoking as his New Year’s resolution. Bogey was the man! (Editor’s note, Bogart died of lung cancer due to excessive smoking.)
Be More Spontaneouss - This was one of mine a few years ago. I keep trying to make plans to be more spontaneous, but for some reason I couldn’t quite make it work.
Stop Cursing - This was going to be a big one for me. I have a filthy mouth, which I of course have to control as a teacher. I rarely if ever slip up in school, so it’s not that it has ever become a professional problem. However, outside of school, I’m a major league potty mouth. A few years ago I decided that I was going to eliminate all cuss words, except for “Hell,” “Damn,” “Ass,” and “Bastard.” Not only did I find it almost impossible, but there are just so many instances in life that only an “F-bomb” will do, that I found myself lacking inlinguistic passion due to my inability to let fly my inner “sailor’s mouth.”
I suppose breaking the habit of using your Smartphone while driving would be a worthy New Year’s resolution. Each day in the United States, nine people are killed and 1000 are injured due to “distracted driving.” How do I know this? Easy, I Googled it while I was driving on my way to work. (You Tube)
For this year’s resolution, I decided to try something far more modest. For years, like a lot of people who eat too much, I have also spent most of my life eating too fast. As many a dietician has reported, it takes time before your brain realizes that your belly is full. If you eat too fast, not only do you still feel that you are hungry, you spend a lot of time watching other people while they are still eating. There have been times when I’ve eaten with my eldest brother, and I’ll be done with half of my sandwich, and my brother will still be applying the ketchup on his burger and fries, still awaiting to take his first bite. By the way, surprise, surprise, my brother is thin.
While this doesn’t seem like much of a task to master, it really does constitute a fairly monumental change in my behavior. Eating too fast is really a sign of being a nervous eater, which often leads to eating even when one is not hungry, and that leads to being overweight. So I guess what I’m saying is that my real New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. I feel like I’ve been down this road before.