This post was originally published at smerconish.com
It’s that time again when we feel the need to make New Year’s Resolutions to convince ourselves that we can fix our shortcomings from the previous year, or in more extreme cases, our entire lives.
Of course, this is done with the implicit understanding that our good intentions are going to fail miserably.
Sure, we may modify our lifestyles for a few days, maybe even a week or two, but by the time Groundhog Day rolls around, we’re back to repeating the same behaviors that lead to our feeling that we needed for change in the first place.
That is why we need to change the way we approach this yearly undertaking, not in an effort to secure success, but rather embrace our ultimate failure in a way that allows us to avoid feeling disappointed. Now some of you might suggest that we should just accept the status quo and not make any resolutions, but that would be tantamount to accepting failure before we even started.
The real problem is that people temper their expectations in an effort to make a reasonable goal that they might be able to come close to obtaining. They are setting themselves up for disappointment, from either failing to accomplish what was a marginal quest or succeeding in their goal and realizing they set too low expectations for themselves.
Take weight loss, the number one resolution every year.
Assuming you’re not at an ideal weight for yourself, but rather spent the year downing large quantities of chocolate cheesecake and other wonderful joys, you’re probably going to set a weight loss goal far less than what you really want to lose. If you even get close to the goal, you’ll feel good about the progress you’ve made and hopefully continue on until you reach that self-perceived ideal of perfection. The truth is that if we ever got to our desired weight, we’d celebrate with a slice (or six) of that aforementioned cheesecake as a reward, and if we fail to make any substantial headway, we’ll indulge in the massive consumption of cheesecake in order to counter the feelings of failure.
What we need to do is set goals that are undeniably beyond possibility, so we never feel as that we’ve let ourselves down because we knew in advance that we would never succeed. Just the notion that you attempted something so audacious should make us feel good about ourselves.
An old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I know for a fact I’m not walking fifty miles, never mind a thousand, but I can take some comfort in knowing that at least I got up off my butt and walked a few steps before giving up. As that other ancient philosopher, Charlie Sheen said, “Winning!”
It’s in that spirit that I’ve conceived my list of New Year’s resolutions and predictably, I started with weight loss.
In the past, I’d admit that I needed to lose 20 pounds. Okay, 25 if Robert Mueller was asking. But 20 pounds is a lot to lose if I’m really not committed to giving up cheesecake, so I would have talked myself into setting a goal of ten pounds. At this point, no one would think I looked much better than if I had only lost five pounds.
And if I can’t even lose five, well that’s tragic, so pass the cheesecake.
Therefore, my goal for 2019 is to get down to my original birth weight, a completely unattainable goal, especially when combined with the concept of staying alive. Having that understanding before I even put the fork down for the first time allows me not to get worked up about my potential failure but rather embrace a half pound loss as a success. Hey, I made an attempt.
The second most common resolution usually involves one’s career, and it’s no different in my case. Besides the two scripts and various freelance assignments I’m being paid to write, I’m currently working on three film scripts that I’d like to say are passion projects, if you define passion as pulling up a draft on my computer and immediately staring off into the abyss, contemplating what the next scene should be in one of the other projects.
I know if I just focused on one script at a time for a few hours rather than thinking about writing, I could have them all done before the end of 2019 with time for everything else I need to accomplish. It’s a thought that is so simple and easy to achieve that it scares me to even think about how much of sloth I must be to not even come close.
Therefore, my resolution is to be at my desk every day from 9am to 5pm, and have all my projects completed by the end of March. That goal is completely unrealistic, but at the current way I’m going, by the end of 2019, I should have each script a few scenes closer to completion, so at least I’d have accomplished something. Heck of a job, Brownie.
Finally, the resolution about how you’re going to “take more time for yourself” in the new year. Relax more, read more, watch your favorite shows, just do those little things that make you happy. I currently have stacks of books and an ever-enlarging pile of magazines on my desk to remind me that I’ve haven’t set aside enough time to do much reading. I also have a few hundred hours of television stored on my DVR that I either want to watch or more likely feel that I need to watch to not be a bumbling fool at my next pitch meeting.
Therefore, my goal for 2019 is to read either a book or magazine each day, and end 2019 with an empty DVR, having watched not only all that is on it but everything that I will be adding to it during the year. My rudimentary math skills inform me that combined with the hours I’ve already designated for my other resolutions, my wife and kids, and the new movies and television that my wife will want me to watch with her, my goal is theoretically impossible. If by the end of 2019, my DVR has fewer hours stored on it than I have now, I can discuss the events from the first four seasons of Game of Thrones, determine who Don Draper is, I’ll feel moderately accomplished.
That’s a lot of reading, writing and watching on my agenda for 2019, but because I’ve already established in my mind that I can’t possibly accomplish everything on my list, I’m feeling good about my prospects for 2019.
The best part of this is that since I already know that I’m not going to fulfill my New Year’s Resolutions, I can use the same list a year from now.
That’s right, 2020 New Year’s Resolutions, done. Wow, look at that, I’m already ahead for next year. Good work on my part.
This calls for a nap, right after I have a slice of cheesecake.