Friday, January 1, 2010


New years is, by definition, one of the best documented and most anticipated calendar-driven holidays of the year. It is a celebration of dis-ambiguity. Although New Years Eve is associated with drunkenness and confusion, the first day of the calendar bring sobriety and purpose. That the timing of the holiday is arbitrary and it occurs in winter are two big pluses.

The most conspicuous element of the celebration of clarity is the New Year's resolution. People will suddenly see their way into gyms and exercise plans at rates that exceed any other week of the year. People will understand how to glean willpower enough to stop doing things like drinking or gambling or staring at the sun. Although these lofty goals are worthy I think they miss the true value of this date-driven celebration of disambiguity.

Making a new years resolution about something that has been nagging at the stem of your brain for months or years is hardly the stuff of revelation. “I can see clearly now what has been bothering me for some time?” is hardly the sort of statement that convinces the listener of the speaker's stability of purpose.

If something is important give it the attention it deserves. There is no reason to wait for a arbitrary holiday to act.

However, things that appear unimportant or whose context is star-crossed can blossom in the light of accidental holiday-induced attention. New Years is a great time to ask “what is awesome and how can I be a part of it?” Or, more pragmatically, “what is kinda cool and how can I go about doing it?”

I apply several constraints to my New Years resolutions.

First, they must be measurable. “I want to be happier” is nice but trying to asses the overall success in achieving this is more dependent on how I feel the day I do the assessment than the total happiness I may or may not have achieved. Severe subjectivity should also be avoided. Since I expect to change my point of view during the year what I may mean by a New Years Resolution might be very different from the standards I apply when assessing it.

Secondly it should not be too complex or overreaching. Changing everything about myself is a project that should be the product of multiple activities. Even lesser re-workings require a plan and a schedule and tools that are beyond the scope of a holiday-driven pronouncement. These projects are often done best as a continuous activity spanning a lifetime. The goals and methods for the large activities of life change and mutate as the life is lived. Very small portions of grand plans might be useful New Years Resolution fodder, the big plans themselves are not.

Thirdly they should be positive. “I will stop telling the greeter at WallMart that his fly is undone so often” is a goal begging for failure. “I will look at fresh produce and recite romantic poetry” is positive (And delightfully achievable I might add). “I have done this” is a success. “I have avoided doing this” is a lack of failure. Go for the brass ring.

Finally, they should be fun. “I am going to loose 300 pounds” may appear like it would set you up for fun but it is really just another way of saying “I've got 300 pounds to loose”. What would be fun to do? Since I like to eat I often use food-related goals. “I will try fresh durian” or “I will sample 12 different types of Korean pickled foodstuffs”.

Make it as fun as possible. You can add a bit of mystery. One year I resolved to “Try at least three really new caffeinated drinks” I found seven. Some of them were awful (like the stale Matte) but they were each a culinary adventure.

I find privacy is nice. Although something is gained by proclaiming a resolution on high the response of many is to judge, or worse, offer helpful advice. I personally do not discus specifics of my resolutions much until I have achieved them or another year's calendar has come off the wall. If pressed I lie about the specifics.

It is amazing how little detail people will want to know about your New Years Resolution when you tell them it is to “Be much nicer to the toothless lady at Jiffy Lube without actually French kissing her.” You, intrepid readers, would immediately see that this resolution violates several resolution guidelines. However, each of you is too well mannered to press further.

BTW one of my resolutions last year was to start this new blog and post into it at least four times.

No comments: