Advice: You Say You Want a Resolution
You Say You Want a Resolution
by Max Trask
This is the time of year when many patients say to me, “Dr. Trask, I was hoping to make a fresh start with the new year. I made many resolutions and managed to keep them for a short time, but inevitably I fell back into my old habits, leading to feelings of inadequacy and ennui which have added to my negative perception of myself as a human being.”
Well, as the shrink said to the schizophrenic, “The problem isn’t you, it’s you.” I’m joking, of course. But the problem really is you.
It’s a matter of setting your goals too high. When it comes to new year’s resolutions, I’ll give you the same advice I gave a patient yesterday: You have to tailor your resolutions to fit your limitations, Beverly.
I know people. I went to school for that. And one thing I learned is that you people don’t have any damned willpower.
Let’s say you’re fat. Very fat. You’re so fat that when you sit around the house, you sit around the house! That’s an old joke, but you really are fat. Now the new year is here, and you’ve made a vow to slim down in time for bikini season. That’s cute. It really is. But your chances of actually getting very slim are, ironically, very slim. The odds are strong that you’ll fail. Why? Because the ideal mindset for losing weight doesn’t come about as the result of a whim, which is what most New Year’s Resolutions are. Also, you are a donut whore.
Rather than pledging to better yourself, why not pledge to not worsen yourself quite as much? Admit that you’re heading lickety-split down a log flume to destruction, and merely try to slow the ride down a little. Instead of vowing to lose 50 lbs., vow to gain less than 100. Or change the time constraints of your resolution. Rather than saying, “I resolve to diet,” say “I resolve to diet until January 4th.” You have a much better chance of success.
This works with other resolutions, too. Let’s say you’re a married man whose hobbies include stamp collecting, cheating on your wife, and restoring vintage autos. It’s possible that at least one of these hobbies causes you some measure of guilt. You decide maybe it’s time to start being faithful to the missus. Slow down, Romeo. That’s admirable, but maybe not realistic. Faithful? A big, handsome buck like you? You need to give yourself a little more leeway so that you can fail without failing. Instead of saying, “I will be faithful to my wife,” say “I will be faithful to my wife, to Monica Shipman, to my daughter’s college roommate, and to Juan, the busboy at Ponderosa.” This gives you some wiggle room. And by including other people in your resolution, you keep the holiday spirit of sharing alive well into the new year.
If you make the right resolution, keeping it can be easy. Whether it involves losing weight, fidelity, cursing, smoking, or sexual self-abuse, you should be able to do it standing on your head.