Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goal-Setting In The 21st Century

In this current incarnation, I've tried to stay away from the lazy man's blogging, which is just making a list and slapping it on the internet. Don't mistake me: I love lists. But they're not always fun to read. There are the exceptions, like Cracked, which has elevated the fine combination of dick jokes and lists to a museum-worthy art form. Blog lists are usually things like, "Reasons Jesus loves you, personally," and "Stuff I like to put on my cat" and "The top five foods that are making me fat/skinny/clinically depressed" (hint: it's probably dairy!), but those irritate me because they're usually badly written and not really meant to be consumed by the outside world. This is why God invented the journal. And the pen. And the chance to be moody, alone, in private.

With that in mind, let's turn to the topic of New Year's resolutions. A perennial favourite among people who feel guilty and/or like a failure, the resolution can be a powerful way to motivate you into losing those last few pounds or trying new foods. It can also act as a terrible depressant when, in February, you realize you've been mired on the couch since January third and are covered in an orange and carcinogenic drift of Cheeto crumbs. I found a list of resolutions from 1996, when I was, like, thirteen years old, that resolved to "not act so snarky" and "lose ten pounds," which: holy shit, and also: something never change.

This year, I want to try something a little different. Resolutions are all about attempts, trying to strive for some more perfect version of yourself. Lose ten pounds, quit smoking, spent more time with your wife, ditch the lousy boyfriend, write a novel, and the ever-popular go to the gym. It isn't about accepting the person you are; it's about rejecting what you see in the mirror in favour of creating, tailor-made, the future self.

I can tell you with great certainty and experience that being ten pounds lighter (or heavier, for all you dudes who want to bulk up) won't make you a more satisfied person. If you're used to a gym-induced endorphin rush, then yeah, maybe weight loss will be a corollary effect to all that awesome dancing or weight lifting you're doing, but seriously: losing weight through January isn't going to fix it, whatever it is. That same priniciple can be applied to almost every New Year's resolution. The end result (upholding the resolutions) is way less dramatic than the process. On the other hand, having resolutions in the first place never acknowledges that there is a process, and that change is hard work. We're supposed to wake up on January first, yawn cinematically, and start being Father Of The Year.

Apparently, according to my mother (after a particularly effective harangue re: sleeping until noon), it takes about three weeks to create a new habit. I'm not sure I totally believe that, but it seems attractive in January. That's the time of year when everything seems frozen solid - habits, the sidewalk, your love life - and creating a gym-going ray of sunshine could be only 21 days away! But how often does that really happen? Because I can think of about two things in the past five years that happened as a direct result of doing them consistently for three weeks. Getting trim and slim was't one of them.

I think this year, if I go to the gym, it won't be because I said I would feel bad if I didn't; it'll be because I'll feel good if I do. Same with things like giving up drinking and not hemorrhaging money like a goddamned burst artery: better if I don't, not bad if I slip up. I can be a bit (okay, hugely) neurotic and perfectionistic, so trying this little mental exercise could be really beneficial.

I mean, of course I'm still going to make the damned list. I'd be making a list anyway, regardless of whether or not I wrote any of it down. Will I post it on the internet? Nope. This sucker is purely for me. I'll spill the beans on topics like how often I flirt with babies and what kind of pets I like (more than you'd think and none, respectively), but my New Year's resolutions are for my eyes only.

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