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New Year’s Revolutions

January 2, 2011

No, that’s not a typo in the heading … I do mean ‘revolutions’, not ‘resolutions’.  Let me explain. 

Dressed Like a ScorpionMy youngest son, when he was small, had a habit of ‘mis-hearing’ things.  I’m not sure if it was because he suffered from a number of ear infections as a child, or if it was just that he wasn’t always paying 100% attention to things that were being said.  Once, for example, I stated that I had to go to the bowling alley with his brother because I was scorekeeping that day; he later asked why I was ‘going to bowling dressed as a scorpion’. Another time we were admiring a large Playmobile display at the mall and I commented on the Texas Longhorns in the western playset; he looked perplexed for a moment and then asked his brother to show him where the ‘Texas lawnmowers’ were.  My favourite of his ‘misinterpretations’, however, was when he coined the term ‘New Year’s revolutions’ (around 1991 or 92), and I have thought of the promises we make to ourselves regarding change every January 1st in that way ever since.

Why? Well, when you look at them in context, the terms really aren’t all that dissimilar:

Resolution: a formal expression of opinion or intention made; the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action; firmness of purpose

Revolution:  a sudden, complete or marked change in something; a procedure or course – as if in a circuit – back to a starting point; a cycle of events in time or a recurring period of time.

Generally, those who make resolutions – to show firmness of purpose and/or state their intention to do something differently – only do so (or only do it openly) on New Year’s Day.  Since whatever they are resolving to do generally requires them to make a sudden or complete change – and it’s usually a repetition of what they said they were going to do the previous year (back to the starting point; recurring each year), it is – in effect – a revolution

New Year's ResolutionsPersonally, I have never been a big fan of setting goals for myself just because it’s January 1st, and I wonder why so many do it.  I mean, let’s be honest – most people resolve to do the same things year after year (lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, get a better job, reduce stress, get organized, save money, give generously to those in need, etc., etc.) and, according to two separate studies, 30% fail within the first week and 78% fail overall.  With 365 days of a brand new year ahead, it probably seems like a good time for change – and many rigorously follow through for about a week or two.  But life quickly derails their good intentions, and they fall back into their more comfortable (or forced-by-circumstances) routines, and the newly stated goals get forgotten (until the next New Year).  

Several humorists have suggested resolving to do things you know you actually will do (e.g., eat chocolate, watch ‘trash’ TV, yell four letter words at your computer when it crashes, etc.), although to that I would say ‘Why bother?’   If you have always been doing something and are going to just keep doing it, it’s not really ‘change’, is it?

I admit that most of us do need to make positive changes in our lives, and that means setting concrete goals and finding the ways and means of following through on them.  Studies have proven that writing them down – and breaking the big ones into smaller steps and setting out a do-able timeline – is definitely the way to go.  However, it’s important to remember that what you set out to do must be something you really, truly, honestly WANT to do – or you are never, ever going to follow through on it.  And I suppose January 1 is as good a time as any to plan for the future (although you could – and should – make plans to improve your life whenever the mood strikes).

Blank To Do ListEveryone I know already has a list of things they want to do or get done.  Most of us, though, haven’t written it out.  Why? Because by not having committed to these things in writing, we can justify avoiding them.  They are what I call the ‘I’ll get to that when I have time’ tasks (for which, of course, you NEVER seem to have the time).  Many of them – if actually executed – would probably take less than a day to accomplish (maybe even less than an hour), but for some reason we just never ‘get around to it’ (either because you have avoidance issues with some tasks, or because you can’t do THAT task until this other thing is taken care of, and THAT requires this other thing to be done first, and THAT needs a significant amount of preparation time … and so on and so on).  You think about these tasks fairly regularly (for example, every time I inadvertentlyturn my gaze to the living room ceiling, I think ‘I really need to get the ladder up here and get my husband to hold it while I climb up and vacuum the cobwebs off the ceiling’) but the execution of them is just not possible ‘right now’ (it is so easy, isn’t it, to ‘put off until tomorrow what you should be/could be doing today’?)  SPECIAL NOTE: for those of you who need a little token to get you moving, I’ve included a ‘round Tuit’ below – now you have no more excuses!!!!!

So, (outside of all the things I know I WILL do this year – such as completing my novel and keeping this blog updated – because I’m firmly committed to doing them already) I’ve decided to address some of the things on this list of ‘unmentionable tasks’ in 2011.  These include the following (which I am now – dear reader – putting into writing and therefore resolving to do, which, believe me, absolutely represents a revolution in both mindset and task management!)

  • cleaning my antique silver (not all at once, mind you, but perhaps one piece a month) 
  • sorting and cataloguing at least one year’s worth of the photographs that have been piling up since 2000
  • hemming the white pants I bought at the end of the summer 2008 season
  • turning the fabric I bought in 2009 into a bedspread and pillow covers  for the spare bedroom
  • painting the ‘feature wall’ in the front hall  (the paint chip has been under a magnet on the fridge since 2006)
  • getting my contractor in to replace the floor in the front hall (which I have planned to have done since we moved into this house ten years ago!!!!)

This is, of course, only a partial list (there are dozens of other little things I think about all the time but never do), but it’s a start.  I am going to write them into my calendar (including any steps that need to be taken BEFORE I can actually get to the task that needs completing, so I have no excuses for not getting these things done.  Of course, I will also schedule in all the fun things that I plan to do in 2011, such as dinners with friends, birthday celebrations, special activities at the botanical gardens, beach days, etc. so that I maintain a good balance between ‘chores’ and ‘enjoyment’.)   

And since these tasks are all things I’ve been considering (avoiding) for years, I am not going to think of completing them as New Year’s ‘revolutions’, but rather simply as things to be accomplished on … the other side of 55.

A Round "Tuit"

No more excuses - here's a round "Tuit" just for you!

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