New Years resolutions are a funny thing.
I read an article the other day about how beginning-of-year promises are a farce. That they’re simply a big lie we tell ourselves as method of placation, a reassurance in the face of change. If this is the case, then why do we take the time to address seemingly random areas of improvement in our lives if most resolutions never make it past Martin Luther King Day?
The answer is simple: people love to-do lists. Or, rather, they love writing to-do lists. The act of naming our goal, of physically writing it out on a piece of paper, brings us closer to achieving it. After all, the first step in any ‘recovery’ program is admitting that you have a problem.
No one is a bigger list-writer than I am. My college notebook margins were filled with mini-lists, usually written during boring lectures or (worse) student presentations. Neat handwriting, proper grammar and punctuation. Cute little bullet points that line up perfectly. While the content has changed from “workout before tonight’s party” to “bang out 50 lines for SPAM,” the function remains the same: a sense of accomplishment.
The thing is, the author of that article is right. I don’t know about you, but to-do lists prevent me from actually doing anything.
I thought about this during break on a plane ride back from Boston (I’m pretty bored in transit), and by the time I touched down at Dulles I figured it out. So, instead of writing a list of New Years resolutions, I’ll just write about them.
The way I see it, there are two ways to turn a “should” list into a “will” list.
First, we have to get specific.
Kind of like in advertising.
Great ads follows you around like a pair of eyes in a painting. You feel as though the eyes are looking straight at you. So does the person standing next to you.
That’s why great advertising doesn’t speak to an individual. It speaks to a world full of them. In the realm of to-do lists, this means you have to speak your language. You have to buy into what you’re writing, because you are the client. And clients (so I’m told) respond to specifics.
Implicit in our goals, of course, has to be a means of achieving them. Which brings me to my second amendment to the list: The “how.” Writing “quit smoking” is a step, surely. But writing “join a program to quit smoking and if you deviate have friends beat you over the head with their peep-toe pumps until you cry sad, hiccupy tears and beg for mercy” is a leap.
If masochism isn’t your jam, just make sure give yourself a couple more rungs on the ladder so you’re not stuck deciding which foot goes first. In short, have a plan of action. It might be hard for you to achieve your goals, but it’ll be easier when you delineate a plan, if only because it limits the number of viable excuses that’ll fly.
That’s the advice I’m giving myself. My resolution is to write more.
So I started a blog.
Happy New Year!