I gave up on New Year’s resolutions years ago. It’s not that I lack room for improvement. It’s the frustration of inevitable non-compliance. My intentions for improvement collided with my character and lost every time. And I’m not alone. As 2011 approaches, Americans everywhere are starting to concoct the token resolutions that will inevitably begin to fizzle following the last verse of “Auld Lang Syne.” In fact, of the 50 percent of Americans that add one major item to their to-do list on Jan. 1, only 8 percent will stick to their resolution throughout the entire year. So, do everyone a favor and skip well-intended resolutions of 2011. Instead, focus on you this year. This may sound selfish, but hear me out:
Every year, the top resolutions go something like this: “Eat better,” “Exercise more,” Quit smoking,” “Volunteer,” “Learn an instrument.” But, while these resolutions, in theory, are meant to improve your quality of life and that of those around you, if you loathe completing the task, you’re not doing anyone any good. After all, nobody wants to deal with a crabby volunteer, and what’s the point of hopping on the treadmill if you’d rather get your exercise by running away from the gym?
Rather than molding your life goals into a cookie-cutter New Year’s pledge, take a moment and examine what people, things or experiences truly make your life more enjoyable and which make you want to scream into a pillow. Is it your job? The people in your life? Something material? Pinpoint the good and the bad, but don’t look at them from a short-term viewpoint. Everyone has good days and bad days – on the whole, what makes you happy or unhappy 51% of the time?
Got a list? The key now is to maximize the time you spend doing the things you love with the people that make it that much more enjoyable and slowly phase out everything else. I know what you’re thinking, “That’s easier said than done.” Well, you’re right. If you hate your job, it can seem near impossible to pack up your desk, Swingline stapler and all, and head out the doors never to return. But, if you abhor what you do for about 1/3 of your life, that doesn’t speak very well for its overall quality. It might take some time, but start making the big changes that will make you love life just a little bit more.
Now let’s address those pesky feelings of remorse from what may seem like selfish behavior on your part. I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you, improving your quality of life will mean, inevitably, that you act with selfish motives. But, it’s not like choosing to act in your own self-interest 100% percent of the time is anything new. The psychological viewpoint of universal egoism expresses that everything we do, no matter how selfless it appears, is ultimately achieved to benefit ourselves. Though it seems that charity or goodwill wouldn’t survive if this was true, you’re forgetting about those who do good works because it makes them feel good about themselves. Therefore, the positive emotions of achievement or and satisfaction that result from helping another means that doing what’s in our best interests can nurture positive results on a grand scale.
So, instead of generating New Year’s resolutions that look good on paper, act a little selfishly. If you truly enjoy working out – do it. If you hate it, don’t resolve to make yourself miserable by vowing to go to the gym every day. If your ultimate goal is to be healthier, find something active that you love doing and pledge to do a little more of it. The point is to tailor the changes in your life to fit what makes you happy, not to live up to any sort of social guidelines that say you have one chance a year to make a personal change for the better. Now, get out there and make some selfish decisions.
Have I changed my mind about New Year’s resolutions for myself? In a way, yes. I resolve to forgive myself of my own shortcomings and accept me as me.