A Resolution Revolution
By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Getty Images
Resolve to be better this year but use common sense to make those resolutions stick.
Southern Gentlemen, this is a New Year’s call to arms, a Resolution Revolution, if you will. I have a plan to stick to most of my New Year’s Resolutions for more than a couple of weeks. In fact, I’m going to stick with some of them past Valentine’s Day, through spring and summer and maybe even into the fall. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to keep one or two for the full year.
You scoff. Heck, I scoff. But I think that I — no, we — can do it. All of us, from the Southern Gentlemen to the Southern Scalawag to whatever falls in between, we can keep a handful of New Year’s Resolutions for a full trip around the sun.
By making it easy. Or easier. Maybe “more manageable” is the right way to put it. Regardless, I’ve been thinking about this and I have some ideas on how to make your New Year’s Resolutions stick.
It begins with changing your mindset.
Most people say they drop their New Year’s Resolutions because they set “unrealistic goals” or they simply “didn’t have the willpower.” I’ll be the first to admit my share of unrealistic goals (I do not have six-pack abs nor am I fluent in Spanish) and I’ll be the first to admit that a lack of willpower — a.k.a. “laziness” — has kept me from others (like finishing my novel or learning to play guitar). But this year, the Year of Quarantine, has taught me some lessons when it comes to resolutions:
Cut yourself a little slack; try… try… and keep trying until you’ve developed a habit; and stop setting unreasonable deadlines that you must meet or else.
First, give yourself a break. I want to lose weight and exercise more. So does everybody, but that doesn’t mean on Jan. 1 it’s all clean livin’ and a quick 10k jog every morning. It means you try to stick to your eating and exercise plan and you try hard, but when you fall short of perfection — and you will — it’s not the end of the world.
At the beginning of my COVID lockdown, I vowed to go for a long walk at least five times a week. For a while I did, then came the heat and humidity of summer, boredom with the routes around my neighborhood, and stress eating and sourdough baking (more on this in a moment). I gained weight, not quite the COVID 19 (a slightly distasteful but mostly funny take on the Freshman 15) I’ve heard so much about, but more than I was happy with, so I told myself it was time to get back to walking and stop the senseless snacking. I didn’t beat myself up about it, I just said that I can do better. After cutting myself some slack and dropping the guilt, I laced up my shoes, grabbed an apple, and headed out the door. Easy as that.
Try… try… and try some more. Unless you’re some kind of savant you’re not going to pick up the guitar and become the next Dickie Betts, and you’re not going to learn Spanish or how to bake sourdough overnight. It takes time. And practice. And patience. It takes trying and trying again and allowing yourself to fail. Your fingers will ache, you’ll mix up tu and usted, and you’ll bake some horrendous bread. Stick with the practice and you’ll get better and you’ll get excited. Most importantly, you’ll develop the habit of practicing chords, watching the Netflix drama “Narcos” without subtitles, and properly kneading your dough.
Stop setting unreasonable deadlines. This is one I had to take to heart. My work as a freelance writer is all deadline driven, so that’s how I think of everything. But sometimes the things you want to do don’t cooperate. Enter sourdough bread. My wife and I got on the sourdough kick early in lockdown and our first attempts were flat, flavorless, disheartening “loaves” of “bread.” After a couple of weeks and a few horrible loaves of sourdough, we were ready to quit. But why? We had all the time in the world to practice and so little at stake if we failed, but this arbitrary deadline made those early attempts feel like a moratorium on our bread-making skills.
We took a break, decided to try again until we got it right, and ended up making a mighty fine loaf on the first try back. By nixing the deadline, we bought ourselves the freedom to fail (or to get it right) and gave ourselves plenty of room to succeed.
With these three simple guidelines in mind, I’m going to stick to my resolutions. I really mean it. I’m going to drop 24 pounds over the course of the year and get closer to seeing if I have abs hiding beneath years of food judging and restaurant reviews. I’m going to complete a draft of my novel. I’m going to play my Duolingo app every day. At the end of the year, I’m going to head into my favorite taqueria, order a reasonable lunch in Spanish, and sit down to give my manuscript a final polish.