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Forget New Year’s Resolutions – Life is About Learning from our Choices

Welcome to January—better known as the month where we waste the least amount of money, eat the healthiest and work out the most. Maybe we should refer to the first month of the new year as the start of “resolution season” instead— like duck-hunting season for our wellbeing.

New Year’s resolutions appear year after year because time is set up to make people feel like everything starts over—it doesn’t. We’re still aging every minute of every day, but the calendar system and the cycle of seasons make us feel like we can start fresh each new year. Of course, we can, but we can also start over every day—even every minute.

Addicts have the same kind of attitude: a junkie mentality where deciding to quit tomorrow means polishing off every bottle or every donut in the house. Humans harbor addictions to many things that all share the spirit of being “bad” for us in excess.

So, the first of the year rolls around as we’re cleaning the leftovers out of the refrigerator, with our pants unbuttoned because we’ve been eating since Thanksgiving. And we tell ourselves, “I’m going to lose 30 pounds by summer.” And we mean it—until about Valentine’s Day.

The reason resolutions fail lies in the motives behind them as well as in the words we use to encourage our actions. An article in Forbes by Eric T. Wagner published on New Year’s Day claims that “Smart entrepreneurs don’t make resolutions.” What the smart ones do, according to Wagner, is resolve to focus on three words and build a system around them. This is actually just a metaphor for a business plan.

Because we each have the opportunity every minute of every day to walk away from the fast food lunch and spend our break jogging, we need to reset our minds and stop acting like we deserve one last hurrah. We don’t.

What each of us needs is the discipline to set objectives for our lives and measure them in concrete steps. Life is a long process of learning; success and failure are given, but true learning means gaining understanding from the choices made in the past.

We kick ourselves when we fail to lose that 30 pounds and instead resolve to spend the summer in a bar as opposed to on a beach. We make excuses because we are human. Being healthy and fiscally responsible isn’t fun. But, every year we feel like we have a chance to start over and actually become the perfect human. We won’t.

What will happen, in time, is that each of us goal-setting, resolution-making students will realize to live life as a process and make each day count. When we reset our minds we don’t have to fail ourselves for feasting on fast food after a bad day, and we don’t have to swear off spending money on a night out just because we want to save for retirement.

By living each day to its fullest with a concrete “big picture” in mind, resolutions become objectives. Life translates to a business plan, and we work toward financial security, physical and mental health by deciding what we want, need and enjoy and going for it. The key is that every day the clock starts at 00:00 and you can decide who you are and what you want to be in the moment. So, when you waive goodbye to your resolution to quitting smoking the first time your boss sets an unrealistic deadline, know that you have another chance to quit as soon as you’re done smoking.

Let’s all resolve to not be so hard on ourselves this year. Take life as it comes and not make as many stupid mistakes and maybe we will learn something while enjoying the process. Happy New Year everyone!

 

Ellen Eldridge,
Senior Communication Major