There are many excuses for failed NYE resolutions. These are mine.
Resolution: Get more rest. I can’t afford a Tempur-Pedic® TEMPUR-Topper (but why so stupid a name?), which would make spending eight hours on my bed much easier, but in the face of a 2007 study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, this excuse falls short. A tired brain is more susceptible to temptation, Wiseman found, making the value of a night’s rest a serious priority with regards to willpower. Problem is, willpower and one’s ability to control impulses are located in the prefrontal cortex, just behind the forehead, and I’ve bashed that in enough to qualify for some of that NFL money. The “better bad decision”? Hello! Discount foam!
Resolution: Lose weight. I need to lose about 15 pounds, but with everything I’ve learned about myself and the (same) 15 pounds I needed to lose last year, hell, I’m going into this with such an advantage that I might not even have to modify my food choices. But just in case, I’ve got a fallback position. It’s a “better bad decision” to eat a few dozen less of the things I love, so I’ll just buy ’em every other time I’m at the grocery store. Lesson learned: self awareness isn’t enough.
Resolution: Organize my clutter. I’m irrationally committed to things that might jar memories later. My office looks like bomb went off inside a collector’s record store next door to an antique shop. I often find myself saving mementos during a cleaning fit just to struggle with the same decision again in the future, and this is something I’ve done even with bits ‘n pieces of bad memories. It’s a classic case of something a friend of mine said once, which is, “the more you own, the more it owns you.”
But I can counter this truth by making a “better bad decision” to re-archive things inside new and differently shaped boxes and containers. Now I can justify a trip to The Container Store and everything will take up less space.
Another “better bad decision” is when I eat the rest of the peanut butter M&Ms so there won’t be any left to tempt me. I’ve been known to cram as many of ’em into my mouth as I can. I usually don’t touch them ’til well after dinner, because with a break they’ll feel like they’ve got their own digestion freedom in my stomach. (About half an episode of Shameless works, and fits thematically; there’s no better writing on television that addresses the consequences of one’s actions in an entertaining way. In fact, I’m hoping the show’s producers do a diabetes episode real soon.)
New Year’s resolutions are too much about suddenly changing your life, remodeling your behavior, pulling discipline from thin air, or acting as if self-defeating behavioral patterns are easy to shake. It’s hard to listen to, since 88% of it is self-congratulatory B.S.. The only way to really change something about yourself is to start moving in the direction you want to go: Actions speak louder than words.
In my experience, it’s been the little drops in the bucket that add up. You can’t just turn it off and on. You can’t just become a marathon runner or an exercise queen because of a calendar date – all stuff we already know, but it does need repeating. This week alone, several friends have described the coming year like it’s a boxing ring, and they’re already wearing the winner’s belt. I’ve gotta wonder: What’s their fallback position? Where’s the “better bad decision”? Where’s the improvement, the incremental progress?
But maybe I’m no one to judge. I probably shouldn’t even use myself as an example here, considering my own history with bad decisions begins with armed robbery. As long it doesn’t put the cops back in my face, just about every decision I make is “better” by comparison.
So here are a couple of motivational clips to start your 2014 just right.
Happy New Year and thumbs up for rock ‘n roll.