Crafting a Proper New Year’s Resolution

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The New Year is here and the natural reaction is to say, “This is the year I finally….” Generally, this lasts until about mid-January or early February. Ever try breaking out of a gym contract? Yeah, you would have better luck getting your finger reattached after a missed payment to the mafia. In theory, it can be done but it might require a lot more time, effort and pain than you really want.

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The first step to making a proper New Year’s Resolution should be a no-brainer. However, you would be surprised how many times this gets messed up. A resolution should ideally involve no one other than you accomplishing something. For instance, let’s say that your resolution is to run a father/ daughter 5k race. We don’t even know if those exist because running on so many levels is like… yeah.. yeah.

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Anyway, let’s say that is your dream. Or rather, we know people climb mountains in pairs. Let’s say that your New Year’s Resolution is to climb Mount Rainer with your son. The obvious point of failure here is whether or not your son is going to want to put the same level of time, effort and dedication into your dream that you are. Nothing, and we mean nothing, will kill a New Year’s Resolution quicker than someone else’s lack of dedication.

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If your dream is to take your wife to Hawaii, she is probably not going to bitch too much. This would be as long as you have a plan, are saving money out of your check, make all the arrangements, and then drive her to the airport. As long as she only has to pack bags, lather up, sun, surf and tan on a predetermined schedule, you are good. If your plan involves her saving or it being a reward for a year-long fitness plan, then you are going to be home for the holidays. The only way that it works is if you both have the same dream or if you are essentially considering the other person as added luggage, in which you are doing all the heavy lifting.

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The second step to having a successful New Year’s Resolution is time management. If you resolve to “work out,” then you will probably kill yourself for about a month before giving up. The best thing to do is to figure out how much time you can devote to anything on a daily basis and then stick to that schedule.

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For instance, say you want to finally write that novel. An average first novel will be around 75,000 words. Everyone needs a rest, so take two days off a week. Now, the next step is to break it down on a yearly basis. There are 52 weeks in a year. If you consider writing five days a week, then you would have to write 300 words a day five days a week to have a 78,000-word novel.

It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. It doesn’t even have to be good. That is what editing is for. Resolve to write 300 words five days a week all year. The next year work on editing, revising and submitting the novel. In two years, with a minimal amount of time every day, you will have your grand novel written.

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Or rather, let’s take the dreaded running/walking example. Do not resolve to run a marathon. Resolve to walk two city blocks a day. Resolve to do it five times a week with two days off. This means that you have now resolved to give an hour a day to your dream. No one has that much time, but anyone can potentially spare an hour to walk two city blocks. Assuming that city block is around a mile then you will have walked/run 260 miles before the end of the year. Keep up with how much and the time spent, then increase it the following year once it becomes habit. Habit is very important.

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It’s like planning for a big trip. Take your salary and figure what one or two percent of that would be. Plan the vacation and figure out the total cost. After you figure out the total cost, add about twenty percent. Then figure out if you can shift ten to twenty bucks every paycheck into a savings account to make it all a reality. Try your absolute best to forget about that account as you would forget about an extra tax on your check.

While you are working, just imagine every now and again that you are working for your vacation. Then see where you are at the end of the year and whether or not you can afford the vacation. Eventually, you will have a true sense of accomplishment and you will be laying on the beach in Hawaii. Plan the savings not the vacation. Once you have the savings,then the vacation will come.

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The third major step is to keep track of the hours spent. As a general rule, a complete life change takes about 5000 hours of work, but most New Year’s Resolutions take a lot less than that. Start with a spreadsheet that has 5000 hours on it. Any time you do anything associated with your goal, deduct the time from the spreadsheet. It’s honest and gives you an idea of your goal.

For instance, you have not spent three months working on your novel. You have worked twenty minutes once a week getting frustrated and deciding that you will never accomplish your goal. If you think you have done it for three months, then you can look back at the spreadsheet and see that you have spent a grand total of six hours on the novel. Let’s say in that time you have six pages you are happy with. Congratulations, you have done good work and you also have 4994 hours to spend on it before giving up.

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Let’s put it another way. If you are in a relationship, it’s highly doubtful you are spending 24 hours a day devoted to that relationship. Assume for just a moment that at least one of you has a job. That is eight hours a day, five days a week that you are hopefully devoting to work and not to your relationship. In your normal day, you get roughly eight hours of sleep. Of the eight hours left, let’s give you an hour for getting to and from the job and at least one hour to get out of the house in the morning after waking up.

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Guess what? There is 18 out of 24 hours on a work day that you have spent no time on anything other than yourself. We are going to go ahead and assume that dinner is not really romance. In some relationships, the only thing keeping them together is the food. Taking that hour away, we are down to five hours on an optimal day.

There is also what we will call the ‘X-Box hour’ in even the most dedicated of relationship and we will give you four hours a day (assuming a living relationship), or two assuming that your beloved lives somewhere else to concentrate on the relationship. We will be generous and double that time on days off. In an average week under optimal conditions, you will work on your actual relationship about 36 hours a week. That means 1872 hours per year.

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We don’t know about you, but two and a half years with the same person will tell us where the relationship is or is not going. Once you look seriously at the time you are actually putting into anything, then naturally you are going to either start to see dividends or say, “Hey, it did not work out.’

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The fourth major step is considering that a New Year’s Resolution does not work out even with a successful completion of your plan. If you write 75,000 words and do not have a novel you want to publish, then that is perfectly fine. Not everyone is actually cut out to write a novel. Anyone can write 75,000 words during the course of the year. Failure is nothing more than a fully answered question. Having fully tried and not succeeded will sting, however, it is actually preferable to the regret of never having tried.

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New Year’s Resolutions are all about successfully making the attempt. Do not resolve to go out with the girl. Rather, resolve to ask the girl out. If she says no, then you will not make it all the way to Heaven having wondered what she would have said. Anything, up to and including temporarily embarrassing yourself is preferable to regret.

Besides, even a rejection can turn into a positive. If she rejects you and you simply move on, then she might be fascinated as to why you so readily accepted her rejection. That may actually intrigue her enough to try to find out what she is missing out on. It’s a slightly better strategy than going to jail for being a creepy stalker.

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Finally, write your self a secret email with a list of all the things you want to accomplish. When you have done something on the list, then remove it and resend the improved list in your reply. It might seem slightly psychotic that you are writing to yourself. Then again, you are finally talking to someone interesting, and marking off and giving yourself credit for your accomplishments. After all, isn’t that what New Year’s Resolutions are really all about?