By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
My 10-year-old daughter Olivia is making resolutions that she knows she won’t keep. “That’s what you’re supposed to do,” she said.
She didn’t learn that from me. It’s one of the grand, sweeping generalizations that she’s picked up from Disney Channel situation comedies, but there’s no use arguing the point.
Most people have broken their New Year’s resolutions, and many a bold plan for a better future has hit the ground before the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
My wife is the health reporter at the Mighty Daily Journal, and she’s written several stories over the years about why resolutions fail. I can’t recall a single one of those reasons, so I’m forced to make up my own.
The first big obstacle is inertia, the idea that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, while bodies at rest tend to stay on the couch. It takes a serious amount of time and energy to get a train up to speed, and willpower alone ain’t going to stop it or even slow it down.
Habits don’t care about external deadlines. As far as a habit is concerned, Jan. 8, which is Elvis’ birthday, is as good a day as Jan. 1 to make changes. And if Jan. 8 is good, why not Jan. 9, March 12 or Dec. 21? All of the sudden, your sneaky habit has argued itself into another year.
Keep in mind most habits, even the so-called bad ones, give us something. Renting your lungs out to tobacco companies gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping struggling tobacco farmers, who might need your support more than your lungs do.
I suspect you’re beginning to grasp the scope of the problem my daughter diagnosed. Habits are pesky things, and some can do good while also destroying the only life you’ll probably ever have.
Still, you mustn’t give in to Olivia’s defeatist idea that all resolutions are bound to fail. Unless, of course, you want to bow down to a mixture of reason and bad sitcom truisms.
I’m conflicted by the subject. I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders this time of year. But why? I’m an OK sort of guy, but something inside says I ought to be better.
Better is, in fact, better, so the internal drive makes sense. Who wouldn’t want that, other than legions of people who break resolutions by 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day?
Here’s the biggest impediment to change: Where does it stop?
Suppose despite long odds, you succeed in keeping your promises to yourself this time. What’s going to happen on New Year’s Eve 2013? You’ll be forced to make new resolutions. There is no escape.
Stay the same wonderful you or become a better version.
In the end, this has to be your call. Now, go forth and resolve at your own risk.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (662) 678-1589.