It’s that time of year again…time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Time to punish ourselves for our perceived shortcomings in years past, and set our minds to changing our entire personalities in the future, starting at precisely 12:00:00 AM on January 1st. Some will resolve to be a better person, others will resolve to improve their memory, and a huge mass of people will resolve to lose weight. These determined souls will undoubtably jot down their plans and goals on a piece of paper – or their Smartphone – and see a brilliant, shining future ahead of them in which they are changed people. And for a month or so, they make an effort to live up to those goals. The nasty resolver will begin to smile at acquaintances she hates, if she remembers and isn’t in too bad of a mood that day. The forgetful resolver will sign up for some free online memory-training program, but will keep forgetting to play the memory-training games each day. The weight-loss people will try numerous techniques, from buying some outlandish exercise equipment that looks like a torture device, to starting a fad diet, and everything in between. But the fact is that many of these people will end up relinquishing their resolutions by the next week, or month, or couple of months, having gained nothing from their attempts to change but bitterness and failure.
In my view, the problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that many people will resolve to change their entire being, attacking intrinsic elements of themselves. The only possible outcome of this drastic action is giving up on the whole thing (or getting a personality transplant.) Since a personality transplant is too expensive for the typical New Year’s resolver, there’s nothing to do but beat themselves up even more for being unable to become someone else.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a problem with making resolutions. I think it’s important to reflect on oneself, one’s place in the world, and to think critically about ways one could change for the better. But these changes should not be so drastic as to replace the whole person. I believe that, instead of a great existential change, we should resolve to make a change in our actions and their impact on others. For instance, instead of being nicer, the nasty lady should resolve to do specific, manageable nice tasks, like bringing cookies to work once a month or saying a cordial hello to that hated acquaintance if he says hello first. Who knows? Maybe after she gets in the habit of doing these nice tasks, she’ll be able to build up to nicer and nicer things until she becomes a truly saintly individual.
Or not. If she wants to be mean and nasty at home when no one’s looking, let her knock herself out. If some undesirable quality happens to be part of one’s identity, one should strive not to cut it away from oneself but to be mindful of it, and learn to express it appropriately. If you’re forgetful, start putting post-its everywhere telling you what to do so you’ll see them at the time you need to remember them. Starting small is the only way to build up to a big change of any sort.
For the weight-loss resolvers, I say think of it as a journey and not a result. Any extra pounds that weren’t in urgent need of removal on December 31st will not be in any more urgent need on January 1st. And in case you haven’t heard the news yet, fad diets – don’t work. The only way to lose weight safely and permanently is with a doctor-approved, reasonable diet and exercise. Weight-loss resolutions should be thought of more as health resolutions, and gone about as a journey, not a destination, because if you want to keep the weight off for good, you’ll have to continue practicing healthy habits for the rest of your life.
And again, resolve to change actions, not the self. Hating your body is not a healthy attitude and will never lead you to satisfaction. Instead of resolving to be thinner, resolve to make an appointment with a registered dietician to discuss what diet and exercise plan might be right for you. Have a plan, and stick to it. Focus on actions: the act of choosing whole grain breakfast cereal over candy crunch is a step towards a healthier lifestyle, and will probably end up helping you lose weight too. Don’t be discouraged if the scale doesn’t change right away – these things take time. That’s why every dieter needs a sustainable plan that they can thrive on long-term.
Furthermore, New Year’s is not the only time to make resolutions. Any time can be the perfect checkpoint to reflect on one’s life and what one could be doing better. Whenever I realize something missing from my actions or my life, I make a plan right away to correct that. Sometimes my plan works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s much more likely to work if I set small goals, and focus on my actions and taking it one step at a time.
This year, I have a number of blog-related resolutions. They are as follows:
1) To use a wider range of ingredients in my recipes, and try new things. I just did this today with my Caramel Apple Cookie Butter Cookie Cake, which was the first recipe I’ve made using cookie butter.
2) To make more savory recipes, since at the present moment I feel like I’ve unintentionally created a dessert blog. Yesterday I made a great savory Italian Breakfast Casserole.
3) To make more family-friendly recipes, or at least recipes that serve more than just one person. (I’ve made enough mug cakes to last a lifetime!) A couple weeks ago I added some Yam Muffins to my grandmother’s holiday table, and my family simply raved about them.
And that’s about it! Notice how all these resolutions pertain to specific actions, which all will (hopefully) lead me to a loftier goal of having a better blog for all you guys out there. So with that I wish you a successful, healthy and happy New Year!
Photo Credits: (chronological order): http://www.sessions.edu/notes-on-design/uncategorized/new-years-eve-ball-drop/