Resolutions for the Real World

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BrianBrian says:

Yes, it’s that time of the year again.

We dust off our treadmills, stock up on classic literature of the 20th century and swear to all that is holy that we’ll never drink again. Right…

Look, there’s a lot to be said about taking the initiative and really giving this whole resolution thing the old college try, but don’t you get tired of making the same promises to yourself year after year only to greet January 24th with disappointment?

The problem isn’t the fact the you may really want to make some positive changes in your life; the problem lies with your methodology: you’re more than likely trying to bite off more than you can chew. So, instead of promising to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, cure cancer and paint the deck all in one week, take this advice and prioritize your resolutions.

Resolution #1:

“I’m going to workout at least three times a week! Oh! I’m also going to throw some jogging in there as well!”

Real solution: If it took you an entire year since the last time to told yourself this to actually do something about it, chances are you’re probably setting yourself up for failure. One thing you must keep in mind is that staying in shape is a year-round activity. There’s no way you’re going to keep yourself together long enough to last through January, let alone the other 11 months.

Instead, put yourself on a progressive regiment. Start out with a light exercise routine once a week (yes, once) for the first three weeks or so. As your body starts to get acclimated and eventually yearn  for real physical exertion, you can step up the intensity from one to three or four days a week. By April, you’ll be a well-oiled machine that’s ready to power through the summer.

Resolution #2:

“I’m quitting smoking/drinking/etc., cold turkey, starting…NOW!”

Real solution: Haven’t you learned anything from aunt Kathy with the raspy “smoker’s” voice? There’s no such thing as quitting “cold turkey” anything. Instead, make this promise to yourself: ‘I will smoke/drink one or two less than I did the day/week before’. It’s a simple mantra, yes, but it will help you in the long run if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like wearing those pesky patches on every part of their body.

This ‘promise’, if you will, is a lot less intrusive than a group of non-drinkers or smokers crowding around you, lecturing you on the dangers of your particular vice. Granted, more serious cases should be left up to professionals, but if you’re simply trying to cut back, the New Year’s mantra is your best bet.

Resolution #3:

“Maybe I will take that trip/learn that language/be more environmental this year!”

Real solution: No. No, you won’t. Here’s why: by using the word “maybe”, you’ve already set yourself up for failure. This can be applied to all of the resolutions that I mentioned before. Never doubt yourself when it comes to the things that you want to accomplish in your life. Set goal and stick to it.

Want to learn a language? Grab Rosetta Stone and dedicate time to it, even if it’s 15 minutes a day; you’ll at least be closer to your goal than most others. Trying to be more environmentally conscious? Great! Get involved at the local level first. Start recycling in your own home if you don’t already. Once you’ve established a goal, then you can work your way up to something more grandiose.

That’s really the point I’m getting at, people. I understand that there’s something seemingly rewarding about proclaiming to the world that ‘I’m going to be a better person this year!’, but holds very little water when you set your standards higher than the amount of effort you’re willing to put into them. Start small and work towards your ultimate goal; the trick is to turn your resolutions into your routine, your way of life.

Brian Wilder is a writer for Home Ec 101. You can also find him at Things My Grandfather Taught Me. If you have a question you’d like Brian to answer send it to

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2 thoughts on “Resolutions for the Real World”

  1. I prefer to make realistic resolutions: Break the world record for largest fur ball found under a couch; Win first place in the laundry mountain contest; win a bet on how long it will take for dust to obscure the tv screen. These are things I can do!

  2. Well, I love JanetLee's comments. I can relate. I agree with Brian that it's unrealistic to make huge resolutions. Although I disagree with a couple of points above. 1. You can quit cold turkey, and I've known several people who have done it. It's all about a real decision that you mean, even if it feels terrible for awhile. 2. As a language teacher, I would have to say that Rosetta Stone is not the way to learn a language. Short of visiting a country or getting a conversation partner who speaks the language, I'd recommend something like this, proven to work:

    One thing I heard of a few years ago, was the idea of having a new year's focus, rather than a resolution. So your focus for the year might be "peace," "family," "fitness," or whatever. Post the word in your planner, on your mirror, in the car, at your desk, etc. It's a focus that helps you to make decisions. I've tried it on and off for the past several years and really enjoy this approach. It's not so goal-oriented, which some people will not like, but it can guide goal setting and accomplishment.


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