It's the last day of the year and you see this question flying everywhere around you.
I got to thinking. Why do we make New Year resolutions? (Anyone saying "To break them!" will get the final whack of 2009 with my hypothetical rolled-up newspaper.)
Why is it that we need to make a resolution? Why can't we just wake up on any given day and carry out whatever constitutes the resolution we want to make, without saying it out loud to ourselves and others? Why do we make it for the New Year? Why not on any random day? What is it about the New Year?
And then the following points struck me, which answered the why, when and how of resolutions.
1. There is always something or the other about ourselves we want to change or improve.
2. We are inherently lazy.
3. We are easily distracted.
4. We need a plan and a deadline to do what we want to do.
5. Sometimes we need a friendly nudge (and at other times, a kick in the ass) to carry out what we want to do.
6. Sometimes we need a new slate because we have written so much on the old one and crossed so many things out that nothing makes sense anymore.
And a sum total of all of the above points is what makes us make New Year Resolutions. All kinds. Get better marks, get into institution X, play better, exercise more, keep the house clean, get a six-pack, blog more, read the news regularly, watch less TV, make time for hobbies, learn a new language, run the marathon, lose weight, get a promotion, stay in touch with loved ones, retire with XX dollars in the bank, judge less, learn to play a musical instrument, eat more fruits, grow plants, remember to use sunscreen, drink more water, control anger, forgive and forget, etc. etc.
When we declare our resolutions, it's a virtual contract we make with ourselves, and when we tell people, we get them to sign as witnesses. We need them to give us that friendly nudge (or kick in the ass, as necessary) to do what we set out to do. All of us need one another to do that. And we know how much we need the nudges and the kicks to get anything done.
However, there are two sides to having such witnesses. I read an interesting article somewhere that talked of a study which proved that people who share details of their resolutions with others (in an effort to push themselves further by bringing in more witnesses, I presume) are less likely to carry them out. Wow. Never thought of that. The reason given was that when people ask how the resolution is going, the person is likely to make up a couple of milestones achieved and actually believe them to be true! To the point that at the end of it, we may have achieved only 30% of what we set out to do, but we truly believe that we did 100%.
Here's an example. There is a difference between going to the gym and actually doing something in there. Sure, it sounds totally awesome to say "I go to the gym thrice a week, for two hours each." when someone asks "So how's your gymming going?" But what we do in the gym for those two hours is really up to us. And at the end of it, we may actually start believing that we work out for two hours each, thrice a week, but there are just no results. The resolution becomes a burden. And then we give up. We curse ourselves for sharing our resolutions. Hell, we even curse ourselves for making those resolutions in the first place.
But of course, there is the flipside. Of not sharing your resolutions. Of not telling anyone what you want to do, but having very specific objectives and a timeline. The problem? No witnesses. The deal is between you and you. So if either one of you wants out, the deal falls through without any dispute or settlement.
So there we are. Confused. To tell or not to tell, that is the question. Sure, we need the friendly nudge to push us into doing what we want to do, but we definitely do not want to have the questions flung at us when we're not able to achieve our targets.
So from now on, this is what I am going to do. I will come up with an extremely general word, which will stand for everything that I want to do in the new year. The plans, objectives and results will only be in my head, so no one can ask me specifics about my progress (and I wouldn't have to 'eat my word', so to speak), but a friendly nudge now and then on "So how's your [[extremely general word]
My word for 2010 is 'discipline'.
Bewdas, do you have one? Consider the comments space a blank contract and feel free to put down your word for 2010. Just one word, okay? And if you leave your email address, I promise to send you that friendly nudge. Or a kick in the ass, whatever works for you. :)
Happy new year!