Quitters: January 2 is Your Day!

Day 2:

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

It’s 48 hours into 2013, and I’ve only showered once. You might not know why that was a factoid I decided to share now, and perhaps you could have read this blog without knowing that, but here’s the point:

New Year’s Resolutions always break. But that doesn’t mean you should stop making them.

OK, it’s not like one of my resolutions were to take a shower every day – if it were, I’d probably start smelling like a compost toilet within a week. (And yes, I do shower [almost] every day. I couldn’t be as into cleanliness as I am to neglect my own personal hygiene, but it happens to everyone.)

More reasonably, two of my resolutions were to stretch every morning and to floss my teeth every night. I thought these were pretty doable, considering the cumulative time spent on both of these activities would rarely exceed thirty minutes. Unfortunately, New Year’s Day is the same as “Lay in bed until 2 PM and regret the previous night’s decisions” Day, so stretching became delayed a good twelve hours until my mom went to sleep and I knew the sounds of the shower would wake her back up. Of course, I used this as an excuse to avoid flossing my teeth – I have an irrational discomfort with dental hygiene, so adopting extra additions to my routine do not appeal to me. And just like that, two of my uncodified New Year’s Resolutions went up in smoke, less than 24 hours after I made them.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

But wait, that can’t be the whole story!

Remember when everyone joked that we’d die when the New Year began? Like, an apocalypse would occur or an asteroid would strike or something else equally insane would end our lives? There are actually a few of these cases to examine, from my experience Y2K and the recent Mayan New Year. Obviously, we’ve lived through both, and the end of the world has been delayed until the Sun burns out and our scientific source for existence decides we’re too far gone to┬áresuscitate.

For some reason, humans have decided that these benchmarks foretell a great deal more than just a marker in time. To many, New Years symbolize the divide between an old and new version of themselves, as though the ritual of New Year revelry cleanses them of their habits and troubles from the previous twelve months. We arbitrarily subscribe to a date in the calendar and pledge ourselves to self-improvement. …Then we fall apart a day later, eating ice cream in our pajamas and watching TV all day, like the true Americans we are.

Our arbitrary sense of time shouldn’t dictate when we make ourselves better. If we keep waiting for a sign, we could be waiting forever – what we’re looking for is strictly defined by a self-guided vision of the world, so signs can be everywhere or nowhere depending on one’s mentality. We decided to adhere to a single New Year Day, but there’s nothing to say that we can’t seek improvement at the Mayan New Year, or the Indian New Year, or the Chinese New Year.

So to all those New Year’s Resolution quitters: your resolutions can still be maintained. Maybe not from New Year’s Day itself, and maybe not every day, but giving yourself the leeway to fail – but not give up – is how you actually start sticking to your promises. I may not exercise every day, but if every day I remind myself of how I want to become a better person, eventually I’ll start doing what needs to be done. And when I do, it won’t matter what time of the year I do it.

The New Year can serve as a time of reflection and retrospection, as well as a convenient fork in the road at which we decide which path we want to take. It shouldn’t entail an all-or-nothing mentality; when we realize we can’t do it all, we shouldn’t settle for doing nothing.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

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