I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s Resolutions. As a former, and hopefully future, gym rat, I have had a front row seat to observe how effective they are. The first week of the year is a horrible time to go to the gym. There are guys sitting all over the equipment, chatting as they “rest” from having done some ineffective workout consisting mostly of isolation exercises to muscles that don’t much matter anyway. The treadmills are all in use by women wearing their brand new workout clothes, unsure whether they should get them sweaty. By week two half of these folks have given up, and by week three things have mostly returned to normal. By February there might be one or two of the new faces that have actually stuck it out.
If the same sort of attrition rate applies to the people who vow to quit smoking, be better parents, treat their spouse better, eat healthier, stop kicking the dog, wear their seatbelts, quit rooting for the Dallas Cowboys, or whatever else they blame for what ails them, then you really have to wonder why we even bother with this resolution nonsense at all.
I think that the problem is twofold; first off is that we all tend to feel that if a single issue were to be resolved it would make our whole lives better. In some cases, quitting smoking for example, there is definitely an element of truth to that belief. I certainly feel that it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself, yet it didn’t “fix” my life to do so. Had I believed that it would, it may have sabotaged my efforts to quit. The other problem is that while we intend resolutions to produce positive results, we mostly couch them in negative terms. I’m going to stop eating two Big Macs for lunch every day, I will quit smoking, I won’t yell at my kids, I won’t let Tony Romo ruin my day, etc.
This is what I propose as a replacement for the traditional New Year’s resolution: Take a vow to live better. Nothing negative about it, and what could be simpler? In fact, you can promise it to yourself now, and make up what it means as you go along. There is almost no way to fail.
Just start doing positive things for yourself. Once when I had the extreme good fortune of having dinner with the Godfather of Zin himself, Joel Peterson, he began the meal by asking if anyone would like to join him in having a glass of champagne. Of course, being a group of winos, we all did. He then explained that when he turned 50 he promised himself a glass of good bubbles every day for the rest of his life. As someone who was still looking down the barrel of that gun at the time, that concept helped me to come to terms with the fact that 50 was coming whether I liked it or not. It also made me determined to add those type of little things into my life to make sure it is lived well.
There are no rules to doing this, no manual, and certainly no metrics with quantifiable data with which we can gauge success or failure. But I truly believe that doing something as simple as promising yourself a glass of wine every night with dinner can reverberate positively in your life. Just using that simple, single example, think about all of the changes that could occur in your life.
Most meals taste better with a glass of wine. Really, they do. Forget the science that shows that there are compounds released when wine and food mix that go undetected by our senses otherwise, and just go with the traditional belief based on centuries of anecdotal evidence. Wine and food go together. Your nightly meal becomes something to look forward to. Having something to look forward to every day is a positive improvement in your life. So are the health benefits that having that glass of wine offer. Look at that? A single change has already provided two positive changes in your life, and the change took almost no effort and was probably fun. Fun! Positive number three!
If you eat that meal with others, chances are that a glass of wine just made the conversation easier and more interesting. I think we have another positive. So, your significant other is sitting across from you, it would be highly rude not to offer them a glass. If they accept, now they just gained the same positives you did. I would say that having a happier, healthier companion is certainly a positive thing.
Those are all direct results of that one small choice, but there could be plenty of other less direct results. Since your evening meal has taken on more importance, it is possible that you will want to make it even better by learning how to be a better cook. If you end up happier as a result of the changes caused by that glass of wine, perhaps you naturally become nicer to your spouse, your children, and even stop kicking the dog. And maybe, just maybe, feeling better about yourself might cause you to decide to pack that gym bag or hop on your bike again. The ripple effect could be very profound.
I say let the chumps make their New Year’s resolutions and fail. You and I can sit back and drink a toast to our better lives. Cheers, and Happy New Year to one and all!