I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. They never made much sense to me and, in many ways, seemed like a sure fire way to ensure failure. While I know a few people who have successfully followed through on a late December self-promise, I know far more who haven’t.
It reminds me of the friend who is constantly quitting cigarettes in the most dramatic way possible. They have one lone cigarette in an otherwise empty pack still rolling around in their pocket. When you ask if it’s there in case of an emergency, they laugh off your backhanded accusation and simply claim it’s for sentimental purposes.
Nah. This is the last one in the last pack I’m ever going to buy. I keep it here to remind me never to smoke.
You keep a cigarette in your pocket to remind you not to smoke cigarettes?
Last time you showed it to me, it was a Marlboro. That’s a Camel.
I smoked the Marlboro.
To me, that approach was always doomed. For starters, it’s basically glorifying a habit you’ve decided to give up for your own personal betterment. No matter the health risks or potential harm, you still love it so much that you’re not ready to let go. So you treat it like a fading treasure in its final few days. You romanticize the idea with each cloud of billowing smoke. Your actions remind your brain that this wonderful thing will soon be ripped from your life. Then you place a time period on it and everything goes to hell in your head.
Monday. That’s it. You’ll quit Monday. Or maybe your birthday. You can quit then. That’s next month. You have your cousin’s wedding next week and you need to smoke cigarettes in case you drink. But wait, what about drinking? You still have to smoke when you drink, right? You’re not stopping completely, are you?
As you ponder it all, you discover that you’re already going through nicotine withdrawal…and you haven’t even quit yet.
We do this every year. We gorge ourselves on “final cookies” at Christmas and get Fitbits from Santa. Then, right as the kids are dusting off their school bags, that arbitrary date comes calling and it’s off to the races. No stopping. No slipping. No wiggle room.
And that’s where the mental roadblock comes into play. Because you’ve decided that this new year will be a year with only the “new you”, you’re now on a long unforgiving path of never drifting back to any old habits. The first moment of doubt during the calendar year is seen as an escape hatch back to the reality you still crave.
I ate cake for breakfast. That’s the end of that. I guess the old me is back. Dinner Cake, here I come.
The old you isn’t back. It never left. You’re still the old you. You always will be. Days where you fail shouldn’t doom all the ones when you succeed. If you ditch the gym by March, there’s no reason you have to wait until next January to go again. Don’t throw away the year because of some warped perception of failure. When it comes to making yourself a better person, the only expiration is the day you die.
The harsh reality is that no one can truly let go of a bad habit until they are ready. It’s the point where you finally weigh the good versus the bad and choose which is worth more. For every person like me who changed their life in the face of serious heart issues, there is someone with similar issues ordering a side of beef at the Heart Attack Grill. They laugh about health concerns and sing songs about bacon. It’s about personal choice, priorities, and what you want for yourself. People are different. The things that move me might not be the things that move you.
The changes we make to our lives happen at any time and are based on our own desires at the time. A 20 year old might have no issues taking personal risks while a 40 year old with children might think otherwise. I know I do.
Bad habits are broken for a number of reasons. Whether they’re for your family, to acquire a better job, or reach a lofty goal, they happen because they need to happen in our lives. We finally recognize the importance of whatever they’re keeping us from. They don’t happen because it’s the start of January and you needed to write something on Facebook. They happen because you’re ready.
We all grow as people and I’m sure there will be moments in the next year when I better myself too. The dates don’t matter, the circumstances do. The biggest changes I ever made in my life happened after I returned home from my bypass. That was on December 20th. You don’t read many “old year, new me” memes online, but they happen. They happen all the time.
Rarely has a story about someone’s life suddenly veering in the right direction began with “I was drunk on New Year’s Eve and just decided…”.Whether it’s January 1st or any of the 364 days that follow, every day is a fresh opportunity to start becoming the you that you want to be.