Resolve to be less specific in New Year’s goals

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

I’m going to be blunt – New Year’s resolutions are for chumps.

All right, let me immediately walk back from that conclusion and restate: New Year’s resolutions that set specific, ambitious goals are invitations to dwell on frustration, at least until mid-February, when they’re usually forgotten altogether.

Okay, they’re forgotten until, say, this exact time of year when we take inventory of the outgoing year’s failures, put forth a new slate of commitments and start the cycle all over again.

Who among us is deluded enough to believe that another trip around the sun is going to make us more ambitious to do those things which we promised ourselves we’d do during the prior 365 days, but didn’t? Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m not getting any less tired or busy as I get older. Maybe some of you Benjamin Buttons out there find the inverse to be true. Good for you. Enjoy your increased time at the gym, bountiful bushels of kale and well-organized garages. I’ll be over here polishing off a two-liter bottle of Vess Whistle Orange while I risk death by avalanche scouring my shelves in search the last spool of trimmer string.

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Anat Cohen at The Sheldon

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking I am averse to New Year’s resolutions. As a matter of fact, I make the same one every year, and amazingly I have had tremendous success in keeping it. 

My annual pledge is simple. So simple, in fact, that it is only two words long: Do Better.

The way I see it, every New Year’s resolution is about doing better, so why limit yourself to particular goals? 

Let’s say you resolved to lose 20 pounds this year. You made a conscious effort to exercise a bit more; you made some improvements to your eating habits, and – voilà – at the end of the year you managed to drop . . . 12 pounds. Guess what? You failed.

Now, let’s say you simply resolved to do better and accomplished the same result, or perhaps only lost 3 pounds. Mazel tov — you are a winner!

Or, say you’re a busy professional who spends a lot of nights and weekends at the office when not out of town on extended business trips. Your New Year’s resolution was to take a weeklong vacation with your family As the year unfolded, the opportunity to make that kind of commitment didn’t pan out, but you did carve some time out to do some local sightseeing with the brood, or spent a couple of lazy Sundays together watching “Columbo” marathons on television. Sorry, Champ, per the terms of your resolution, you struck out. Per the terms of mine, you hit a grand slam or at least an RBI single.

Make a careful reconciliation of your 2014. Were there a few things you did better this year than you did in prior years? And are there a few things you did this year that you think you can improve upon over the next 12 months? I’m confident the answer to both questions is yes. Therefore, I urge you to consider joining me in my resolution to Do Better in 2015. Resist the temptation to get any more detailed than that. I promise you, you won’t regret it. 

And if you do, we’ll both just have to . . . uh . . . do better in 2016.