Some tips on how to make effective New Year’s resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

THE OXFORD English Dictionary says that resolution comes from a Latin word, resolvĕre, meaning “to loosen or dissolve.” Its early appearances, in late Medieval England, refer to a state of dissolution or decay. So if today were December 30, 1389, I would already be well on my way to fulfilled resolutions! Also, I’d consistently be 625 years early for my appointments.

This leads to my first tip for effective New Year’s resolution-making

Everyone should do this, but it’s especially useful for people who have resolved to wake up earlier:

Tip Number One: Set all of your clocks to the late Medieval period. I recommend no later than 1400, otherwise you risk setting your clock to the Renaissance. With this tip you’ll get a head-start on the competition. They’ll be in the shower, while you’ll be writing The Canterbury Tales and inventing the Trebuchet. Be aware however that there’s no medicine in the late Medieval period, and if you catch a cold you’ll die in three days. On the positive side, you’ll get to wear motley and drink ale for breakfast.

People have made New Year’s resolutions throughout history. In fact, twelve thousand years ago people resolved to start making records of stuff, which is how we got history in the first place. It took a while, because they decided to do it on January 1st, but no one knew when January 1st was, because duh! no calendars.

In pre-Christian antiquity, pledges were made to the Pagan gods concerning the settling of debts, the righting of wrongs, and self-improvement. The Romans swore their resolutions to Janus, the god of portals, hence of beginnings and endings. It is often and wrongly held that January is named after Janus, when in fact the English word janitor comes to us from this ancient deity of gates and doorways and probably also dirty high schools, although the Romans don’t actually say this.

This leads to my next tip for effective New Year’s resolution-making

Tip Number Two: Think about becoming a janitor. The janitor industry, unlike law, education, medicine, journalism, music—okay, pretty much everything else—is thriving. Everyone needs a janitor. Look how filthy kids’ boots are these days. Somebody has to deal with that, and that somebody is a janitor. As a janitor, you’ll be on your feet all day, improving your physical well-being, burning calories and losing weight. Plus you’ll get paid, which is great for your finances! The best part is you’ll have the inner track to a potent Roman god, which will come in handy when it’s time to smite thine enemies, transition to the afterlife, or fix your garage.

The biggest mistake when making New Year’s resolutions is complexity. Don’t make too many resolutions, or resolutions that require major life changes

For example, if your New Year’s resolutions are to: lose weight, stay in touch with friends and family, quit smoking, save money, cut your stress, volunteer, go back to school, drink less, get more sleep, travel, stop biting your nails, think positive, laugh more, enjoy life, get out of debt, make small investments, become more organized, manage your time, get married, have kids, learn a musical instrument, and simplify your life, you are going to fail. That is because you have made way too many resolutions, some of them contradictory.

If your list of resolutions looks like this, here is a handy piece of advice

Tip Number Three: Find an amazing psychotropic and start taking it, right now. Modern science probably hasn’t invented the drug yet that will help you with a list like this. You may as well jump into the existing pharmacological pool and start swimming, because what you’re basically trying to do here is enter some zany alternate reality where you can save money by travelling and simplify things with fifty major lifestyle changes. You’ll likely have more success if you just start taking something today that makes you hallucinate all of these things. If you find it, by the way, the best way to reach me is email.

I’m kind of tempted to stop here, because once you’ve found that magical mind-altering drug, what’s the point of continuing?

However, here are a few helpful points that still need our attention

The first is that we are mere primates, and we should therefore be prepared for the inevitability of disappointments and set-backs. When we fail to meet our expectations, we do better to accept this with grace and keep going. Remember: we are imperfect beings, only two chromosomes from a chimpanzee.

This leads to my next helpful tip

Tip Number Four: Look into getting some sort of genetic modification treatment that turns you into an amazing superhuman. I don’t know if this even exists, but go and Google it. The time can’t be far off when we’ll all become perfect Marvel comic book heroes with an in-patient procedure that is totally covered by medicare. Not only will you stop biting your nails, you’ll grow nails that are three feet long and that can slash the army of evil lizard creatures that I will be making, using the latest genetic modification technologies. By the way, DAMN YOU, AND YOUR MIGHTY NAILS, LIZARD CREATURE SLAYING SUPERHERO!

In conclusion

Now that it’s 1389 and you are a janitor and lizard-creature-slayer, high on pharmaceutical-grade hallucinogens, it’s time to consider the principles of effective New Year’s resolutions:

Start by setting one achievable goal. As you progress, look at your top priorities, introducing another goal from this list when you feel you are ready.

Take modest steps. Remember to enjoy life and to indulge. Don’t cut out all the pleasures.

Focus on what you’ll be getting, not on what you’re giving up.

Seek out the support and encouragement of good friends.

Set goals that are grounded in what you most want in life, what brings you the most joy, and what motivates you. It’s not about all the things that are wrong with you, it’s about all the things that are right.

Have fun, and stay positive. See you in 2015!

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