So I made some New Year’s resolutions for 2011. I do that some years. Not every year, but some, with varying degrees of success.
This year I even learned something about it:
The key to being successful with resolutions lies in how you measure and define success.
I believe that wanting to improve is already an improvement- though not enough of an improvement.
Gretchen Rubin’s excellent book The Happiness Project is based on New Year’s resolutions. Umm . . . neurotic and obsessive New Year’s resolutions. I enjoyed the book even though her approach is totally not my style. Early on she says something about how there’s a difference between being depressed and just not being very happy. I read the rest of her book, but also, because of that, I got help. So I owe a little something to Gretchen Rubin.
I read her book at the end of 2009, and for 2010 I came up with six categories that I wanted to improve in. That’s it. No giant lists, no things to check off, just six parts of my life that I wanted to be better. When I got to the end of 2010, five of them were improved.
For the hell of it, in 2011 I did a longer list, in a few different styles. I’m not one who believes that lists must be done a specific way in order for them to work. In fact, I mostly rebel against lists of all types. But I did this list of resolutions for 2011.
Some I did affirmation style: I put out a blog post every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
Others were check-off items: Take a Zumba class. Sell something on eBay.
I reserved the right to get to them when I got to them. This is the first blog I’ve ever done, but I didn’t start it until February 22. I didn’t look at my list of resolutions after the first week of 2011 and lament that I would never be a blogger. I got to it when I could get to it.
I reserved the right to decide I didn’t really want to do them after all. I did two solid months of writing down the dictionary.com Word of the Day before I felt like I could let it go, because I found I just didn’t care that much.
I reserved the right to count any forward momentum a success. One of my resolutions was to finish The Norton Anthology of Literature By Women this year. It’s a book that I’ve been carting around with me since Christmas of 1995 but never opened, and it’s 2390 onion-skin thin pages in eight-point type. I figured out that if I read ten pages a day I would make it. That gave me plenty of room to blow it off- two days a week, in fact.
What happened, surprisingly, is that I was riveted. I couldn’t put the damn thing down (which is saying a lot, because it’s not easy to hold). I was inspired to read more by certain authors than just the excerpts included in the anthology. I downloaded and polished off Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, sat through two different film versions of Jane Eyre, and was still way the hell ahead.
Until July, at which point I got bogged down in Rebecca West. Her Indissoluble Matrimony, to be exact.
I don’t know why it took me so long to get though that piece. It probably merits more consideration. Perhaps I’ll put that on my list this year. Or not.
Anyway. I eventually plowed through Ms. West and kept on, but I never regained my momentum and now with about 48 hours left in 2011, I’m on page 1615. Seven hundred and seventy-five pages short of my goal.
I consider this a resounding success. That’s 1615 pages more than I would have read in this book this year had I not made the resolution. I refuse to beat myself up for falling short and have no plans to get all jacked up on quadruple espressos to stay up from now until next year to try to finish on time. Though I do intend to finish.
In the past when I’ve done lists of resolutions, I’ve gotten frustrated by what I perceive as lack of progress and just bagged the whole thing and stopped even trying. That old perfect-or-screw-it mentality.
I dunno. Something about getting older is helping me mellow a little bit there. Something about acting as a parent is making me more realistic and optimistic, and more able to recognize small successes (as well as the fact that the world does not revolve around me, and who gives a rat’s ass anyway if I have an extra cookie?).
One of my favorite ways to start on my New Year’s resolutions is to begin them in the old year. A goal for 2009 was to begin a regular meditation practice, so my friend Polly and I went to a Learn to Meditate class in the last week of 2008.
This year- just Wednesday, in fact- I’ve started tracking all my money on a ledger sheet. Pen and paper. I haven’t yet decided if the 2012 resolution will be some new agey affirmation like, “I track all my income and outflow on paper and it brings abundance to me,” or if it will be, simply, “Money.”
But I’ll figure it out. And whatever it ends up being, I’m already ahead.
Meanwhile, the only resolution I have for 2012 so far is this:
“Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
Enjoy the end of your 2011.