It’s a few days into the New Year. Have you broken your resolutions yet? It’s an old story. Every Dec. 31, we try to improve the quality of our lives by resolving certain issues keeping us from happiness in the past. Before long, 91 percent of the 75 percent of Americans who have made self-improvement resolutions will give up within the first 17 days after making them. Especially when it comes to the Top Ten.
I’ll list them for you in reverse order:
10. To be more spiritual (whatever that means)
9. Get out of debt
8. Be more organized
7. Spend less time on the Internet
6. Spend more time with the family
5. Be a better person (How vague is that?)
4. Quit drinking
3. Quit smoking
2. Get more exercise
1. Lose weight
According to resolution-keeping experts, success is more likely if the goals are small and specific, such as “volunteer to help my child’s teacher as a room mother on Tuesdays,” instead of the imprecise “give more of myself.”
Instead of “be more spiritual,” resolve to read a chapter a day in the Bible or begin each morning with an intercessory prayer for someone. For those who need outside encouragement to stick to their resolve, various websites offer daily reminders and words of support.
Thumbplay.com sells downloads for your cell phone with ringtone messages or texts like “Nobody can stand your boozy breath” or “Your hair stinks from tobacco,” and “Put that doughnut down, you fat pig.” This abuse will cost you $9.99 a month.
However, if your resolution is to spend money more wisely, these services, with a subscription that’s hard to rescind, may be a bad idea. A free website is GoalGuru.com, hosted by Jill Koenig, “America’s top goal-achieving strategist” and author of “New Year, New Life.”
If you can’t resist making resolutions even knowing they’re doomed to failure, maybe it would be better to adopt easier resolutions: gain 30 pounds, watch more TV, read fewer books, avoid exercise, procrastinate more, spend more time whining, and stop going to church.
Yeah, me neither. I can’t do any of that without a lot of guilt and who needs more guilt?
So, maybe I’ll adopt someone else’s resolutions. In 2013, I could pursue the goals made by a journalist in 17th century London. In his Dec. 31, 1661, column, Samuel Pepys wrote that he intended to eat more red meat and pastries, give up drinking, stop throwing up in other people’s beds, attend more hangings of public officials, hear more violin music, stop publishing obituaries for still-living enemies, and refrain from beating his spouse and his servants.
I’m reasonably sure I can make good on most of Pepys’ promises. It’ll be hard to give up beating my servants, but I think I can do it. I’ve never once thrown up in someone else’s bed, and I don’t drink anyway. I like a good steak, pastry, and violins.
However, I’d greatly enjoy writing obituaries for several obnoxious, but still breathing, acquaintances. I’m sorely tempted. So, I’d best be vigilant. Besides, I imagine Mr. Hatfield, my editor, would check behind me to make sure the subject had, indeed, shuffled off this mortal coil. Finally, I promise if a disgraced city official is scheduled for public hanging, I’ll gladly be there.
As far as keeping promises to oneself, I’m reminded of the poet Robert Browning’s question: “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” On the same note, the Apostle Paul said, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize….” Browning and St. Paul weren’t talking about quitting smoking or losing weight, but you get the idea.
Since resolutions are 91 percent doomed to failure, I speak as one who has failed year after year to achieve the discipline necessary to see good intentions bear fruit. We’re all sincere enough, but we live in a world of instant gratification. Instant meals, instant beverages, instant global news, and instant almost-everything-else. It’s hard to drop those pounds or lay down that cigarette when we don’t see immediate results. Therefore, I have repeatedly put off my plans to stop procrastinating.
So, until I can come to terms with the good, old-fashioned effort necessary to keep my promises, I just might borrow the rather quirky ones made by another long dead columnist. He won’t mind, and I’m sure Frank, and all my servants, are going to be greatly relieved when I stop beating them.
I’ll let you know how I did on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.