It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about that time when people start making a list of all those who ruined their holiday and how they’ll get back at them. That time has already passed. It’s a new year. It’s 2017. That means we’ve all got a clean slate so to speak. We have a chance to shake off the burdens of 2016 and make 2017 better.
It’s that very sentiment that leads many to make New Years Resolutions. I’m definitely among that crowd. For most of my adult life, especially in recent years, I’ve tried to make New Years Resolutions that will help me improve myself, my life, and all those around me.
I know it sounds cheesy. Some might not even think it’s very sexy. I think it’s an important part of being an adult, finding ways to improve yourself. Isn’t improvement supposed to be sexy? Isn’t that why women get breast implants and why men smother themselves in aftershave? Call it whatever you want. Improvement on any level should be sexy.
I know I’m not alone in making these resolutions. Around this time of year, I notice a significant uptick in crowd sizes at the gym I go to. In fact, there have been some instances where the gym is so crowded on the first week of the new year that it’s hard to get a good workout in.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, as may be the case), those crowds tend to taper off. Usually by mid-February, the crowds are almost back to normal. I think that says a lot about New Years Resolutions and how hard they are to fulfill.
I think we’re all guilty of it at some point in our lives. We make a promise to ourselves to do better or be better in some capacity. Then, for reasons that aren’t always our fault, we fail. It’s sad. It’s frustrating. It can be downright demoralizing. Unless you’re rich enough to pay someone to meet your goals for you, it’s downright inevitable.
Why is this though? Why is it that so many people fail at New Years Resolutions? Well, some of that goes back to the “caveman logic” I’ve cited many times before on this blog. In some respects, our own evolutionary biology is working against.
This isn’t just a case of our brains being wired primarily for survival and reproduction. This is more a product of our brains favoring certainty over uncertainty. Back in the caveman days, not knowing where we would get our next meal, when we would hump our mate, or whether there was a hungry bear around the corner caused a lot of stress. We needed to feel stress so that we’d do something about it. That’s just the laws of nature.
Once again, the problem with our brains is that it still hasn’t gotten the memo that this is 2017. We’re not living in caves anymore. Our wiring still confuses the uncertainty surrounding our whole weight-loss resolution with the uncertainty that comes with not knowing whether a bear will steal the meat we gathered from our last hunt.
Being so crude and blunt, reorienting our brain is like trying to cut glass with a hammer. Technically, it is possible. It’s just not very precise. Our brains are wired to avoid the distress that comes with uncertainty. That’s why it’ll fight you tooth and nail when you try to change something in your life.
I know this because I certainly had to fight it when I pursued some of my resolutions. As I documented before, my efforts to get in shape did not happen overnight. I had to slowly work my way into a healthier mindset. It took time. It took patience. It took a whole lot of frustration as well, but I did it.
In some respects, I was lucky. I had some strong motivating factors behind that resolution, namely recent health issues that some close relatives endured. That, along with getting older, helped provide incentives that my brain just couldn’t work around. Those incentives have served me well, so much so that not exercising causes me distress.
This has been the key to a lot of my resolutions. It’s not so much that I make bold promises. It’s how I go about it. I try to work my new resolutions into a system of sorts. I’ve always been a very regimented person by nature. So when I want to do something, I try to fit it into a schedule or a system that I can live by. If possible, I try to make it as flexible as possible.
A lack of flexibility in setting a goal or a system is usually the first step towards failing. I don’t like to fail. That’s why flexibility is so important. Some of that actually comes from my parents, who made it a point to make everyone flexible to deal with the daily chaos of our lives. It worked when I was a kid. It works even better as an adult.
Now I’m not saying I’m an expert in helping you achieve your New Years Resolution. I’m as qualified to be a self-help guru as I am to be starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. However, I’m not one of those late night infomercial scam-artists who will charge you a hundred bucks just to tell you what you want to hear. I prefer to keep things simple and practical.
I know my experiences with New Years Resolutions won’t work for everyone. My situation is wholly unique and it probably won’t work for everybody. I can definitely relate to those seeking a career in publishing or wanting to explore the world of superhero comics. I can’t exactly relate to those whose resolutions involve buying the perfect Ferrari or not getting mauled by a hungry cheetah.
So in the interest of not overplaying my hand or making light of the fact that I’m still an aspiring erotica/romance writer who has yet to accomplish many of his goals, I’ll try to keep my New Years advice simple and concise. It goes like this:
- Take a moment to analyze your routine/system, how you go about your day, and how well it’s working at the moment
- Highlight specific areas of that routine/system that has room for improvement and identify those areas as “blanks” that you can reorganize
- Assess how flexible you are in your current routine/system and, wherever possible, try to improve that flexibility to the greatest extent possible
- Set small, concise goals at first within the “blanks” and try to work it into your system
- Do not try to pursue more goals than you can count on one hand at the same time
- Be realistic and be willing to fail
- Above all else, learn from your failures
There, that is Jack Fisher’s unofficial guide to pursuing your New Years Resolution. It’s simple. It’s free. You don’t need a guru charging you by the hour. You just need commitment, motivation, and a willingness to try, fail, and learn from those failures. In the long run, the successes will emerge in places you don’t expect.
Also, in keeping with my admission that I am as much an expert as I am a rocket scientist, I’ll cite another more comprehensive list from the fine folks at Psychology Today. The people on this site are likely more qualified than me to assess the intricacies of self-improvement. Their article “Why New Years Resolutions Fail” offers more in depth advice that I’m not qualified to give.
Whatever advice you choose to follow, I strongly encourage everyone to pursue a New Years Resolution. We should all strive to improve as best we can with what little time we have in this world. Why not start now?