No Year’s Resolution

Fireworks Photo by Petr Kratochvil

I know this seems strange considering that I am currently holding a 2009 Financial Resolutions Blog Contest, but I don’t do new year’s resolutions anymore. Sure I still make general decisions/goals/plans/etc. for my life, but I no longer pin them down to specific years.

In years past I have set new years resolutions only to forget them within a month, and have come to the belief that, unless you’re one of the rare breed that always succeeds exactly where and when you say on a whim, setting specific goals with “reach-by dates” might be more of a pitfall than a step forward. The act of failing repeatedly at too-ambitious goals could cause you to give up on self-improvement altogether.

So I have resolved to not set specific “new year’s goals” for myself as I might have done in previous years. For example, I have been known to resolve to lose 20 pounds by my birthday, which is in March. You can easily guess how that always turned out. Can anyone healthily lose 20 pounds in under 3 months? In fact, I haven’t weighed 20 pounds less since the 8th Grade, so it may not even be an improbability.

I can’t remember what some of my other resolutions have been, which in itself must say something. But I do remember at least a few years when I have written down an impressive list of resolutions on New Year’s Eve, only for them to fall by the wayside by the end of January, if they even lasted that long.

New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t for Everyone

Does this reek of underachievement-ism? Perhaps. But this comes after almost 30 years of overachievement-ism and extremism. I am one of those people who have a tendency for the extreme. I’m not talking bungee jumping or skydiving, but simply that I tend to go all out when I decide to do something, often to my own detriment.

For example, if you read my No-Budget System post, you will see how extreme I can be when it comes to dieting. There have been times in my past when I have starved myself in an attempt to lose weight. These spurts of starvation never lasted very long, but they weren’t healthy. So, for someone of an extreme nature, like myself — Type A, perfectionist — new year’s resolutions aren’t the way to go. In fact, my constant goal should be maintaining moderation in all things.

Now, when it comes to resolutions, I follow in the fashion of our No-Budget System and not set specific limits or achievements, but simply resolve to do better. There is no rule that everything be perfected or completed by December 31, 2009 or some other significant date, but simply that I will make improvements.

Fitness Goals

One of my biggest goals is to exercise regularly. Unlike years past, I no longer set a goal to lose n pounds by a certain date, because that can lead to unhealthy behavior such as undereating or overexercising. I simply plan to exercise regularly and eat moderately, but I don’t dictate what I cannot eat or exactly how many hours per day I must exercise. I look at extra hours of exercise I get in as a bonus and not a requirement.

Personal Goals

I will continue to try to further my studies and abilities in languages, music, work-related skills and others.

I have been wanting to learn Italian for some years now, but have never gotten around to it. Last week, I discovered a website for learning languages and have signed on to study Italian. The fact that it coincided with the new year was a coincidence and I’m not setting a goal for fluency by the end of the year, but simply that I will do my best to learn as much as I can and without a “complete-by” date, because there is no such thing as a point where there is nothing more to be learned.

In fact, while I consider myself to be a native English speaker, a status some might view as knowing everything there is to know about the language, only last night did I make a new connection and realize the origin of an English word. So, learning a new skill, such as a musical instrument or language is not something that can be wholly completed by a set date.

Financial Goals

For the most part, we will continue to live as we did last year, living as frugally as we can, saving as much as we can for the future and looking for more ways to save.

* * *

In conclusion, I am of the belief that New Year’s Resolutions are a bad habit of the general populus. There shouldn’t be just one day of the year on which goals are set (January 1) and by which goals should be completed (December 31), as it leads to a cycle of planning and failing.

When one falls off the resolution wagon, one is likely to give up on all resolutions instead of just the one — an image of the list of resolutions crumpled and tossed in the trash comes to mind — until next Jan. 1 when it’s time to set new resolutions. One should feel free to set goals at any time of the year, with or without a “reach-by date,” with reasonable time for completion, if at all.

Of course, this isn’t true for everyone. I’m sure there are many out there for whom it works, and perhaps is necessary, to set new year’s resolutions. But everyone is different. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.

So if you’re one of those for whom it doesn’t work to set new year’s resolutions, look for other ways to achieve your goals. Some people need deadlines in order to get things done, some work better without them. Some might require a system of self-reward or self-flagellation (in other words “the carrot or the stick.”) Don’t give up on goals entirely, just look for a system that works for you.

What are your thoughts? Do you set New Year’s Resolutions? If so, do you stick to them? If not, why?

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3 thoughts on “No Year’s Resolution”

  1. Hmmm…I have mixed thoughts about this one. I absolutely have to have concrete goals, or I don’t accomplish anything. I have to write out the goal, break it down into measurable parts, and then make some sort of visual (usually a chart) and place it somewhere that I see it regularly.

    I agree that arbitrarily tying them to a calendar year doesn’t add any value to the goal, and may even make some people backslide if they aren’t going to meet their end goal within the defined time period.

    Your summary great: What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.

  2. We have just started working out while watching the biggest loser. Those people work out 6-8 hours a day!

    Well I love your blog and I am adding your button to my TOFF (the organic frugal freak) blog


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