How to make a resolution

“What a great New Year’s resolution!” says no one to me ever, “How thoughtful and creative!”

My hypothetical admirer is right. I’m great at making resolutions. I don’t want to brag, but I’ve been known to resolve such bold and commendable things as “Drink more water,” “Finish your damn thesis, already,” and, one I’m still working on, “Expend less energy on self-loathing.” (That one’s a work in progress.)

As a disclaimer, I rarely make resolutions on December 31 with the intention of keeping them for the following calendar year, not because of any kind of principle, but because I am driven by the need for instant gratification. My resolutions, then, tend to fall into two distinct categories:

  • I have (choose one: impulse-bought an expensive piece of gear/signed up for a race/told people about a trip I’m going on). By the time I realize just how far I’m in over my head, it is too late to (return it/change my mind/back out) without losing face. Despite certain disaster, I am too stubborn to give up, so I resolve to (learn to use item/train harder/figure it out, one way or another).
  • I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, certain that my failure to (call that person/get a job in my field after graduate school/maintain friendly relations with most of my exes/get organized/etc.) means I will never achieve happiness. Filled with existential dread, I resolve to right my wrongs first thing in the morning.

My general approach to resolving things is this: You do you.

Intentions can be small (write weekly blog post for a blog mostly read by your mother) or big (save for one-in-a-lifetime trip to Zanzibar), vague (do yoga more often) or specific (train for and do not die during first-ever marathon), personal (don’t lose temper at spouse) or world-minded (spend more time doing activism in my community).

It doesn’t matter what the goal is, it just matters that it matters to you. Goals, I think, don’t have to encompass every aspect of everything you ever hoped you’d be. That’s a nice thing about them. You can make a bunch, if you want.

Okay, here is my magical secret to making resolutions that stick.

  1. Pick something you want to do.
  2. Do it.

Maybe you’ll make an elaborate, color-coded, step-by-step plan, or maybe you’ll just wake up one morning and walk out the door and do your thing. Maybe you’ll do it really well, or maybe you’ll finish and think to yourself, That was terrible and I’m glad it’s over and I’ll never do it again. Maybe you’ll discover your passion, the thing you’ve been waiting for all your life. Maybe you’ll discover a new place you like to have lunch.

Whatever you do, though, I know one thing. The first step to doing stuff? Just start doing it.

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