Once again, the never-ending cycle of days has relegated another year to the scrap heap (along with the latest iPhone), and we’ve exchanged 2017 for a faster, shinier, (hopefully) easier-to-use model: 2018. And along with the New Year’s highly publicized launch comes the opportunity to indulge in everybody’s favourite exercise in personal rebranding: New Year’s resolutions. Time to overhaul our personalities and exchange our former selves for newer, more-up-to-date models attuned to the unique and scintillating opportunities that the coming year will bring.

And yet, aside from 2017’s highly polished, straight-out-of-the box exterior, has anything really changed? Sure, there’s the impending apocalypse on its way once Donald Trump takes office, but is that really enough to justify the habitual practice of self-flagellation known as Making New Year’s Resolutions? Is it really necessary, simply because a new digit has replaced the old one, for us to once more catalogue our shortcomings and weaknesses, then self-prescribe unrealistic remedies that we’re probably just going to ignore anyway?

Human beings are ruled by cycles. How could it be otherwise? We’re stuck on a planet that’s spinning around and around on its axis, day after day, while it simultaneously performs yearly revolutions around a raging ball of fire that’s dragging us with it for the 226 million years it takes to make a single orbit around the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy – and then, when that long orbit is finally finished, we’re forced to do it again. It’s amazing that we haven’t all gone completely insane. Or maybe we have. How would we know?

With all this repetition, one would think that the human race might be interested in the occasional break from routine. But no: we apparently feel that it’s necessary to force ourselves to perform the same old senseless ritual year after year. When will it end?

Here’s my advice: free yourself from the cycle of madness. Say no to New Year’s resolutions. Just because everybody else wants to make themselves miserable doesn’t mean that you’ve got to sign up too. Remember: free will.

However, for those of you who aren’t interested in breaking this old habit for good, here’s a little guidance to make the process more manageable.

Here’s a three-step plan to making (and keeping) your New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Cultivate a genuine desire to change

Most human beings tend to create repetitive behavioural patterns that can be difficult to alter without a high degree of coercion. And while many of us are lucky enough to periodically have forces beyond our control provide the initial impetus for change (having your job outsourced to a small town in the Yucatan Peninsula, for instance), nothing beats good old-fashioned desire when it comes to propelling yourself out of a rut. Any resolution that isn’t backed by a genuine desire to become a different version of yourself is doomed to fail.

In other words: if you’re perfectly happy (or at least moderately happy) with who you are and the way you’re living your life, but all your friends are continually urging you to change things about yourself (lose weight, gain weight, smile more, talk less, get married, get divorced, have children, etc.), then it’s not time to make resolutions. It’s time to get new friends.

  1. Be prepared for the sacrifices you’re going to have to make

You want to become proficient in a new language? Excellent. There’s nothing like broadening your horizons and making yourself more attractive to international employers. Or maybe you want to teach yourself how to code? Or maybe you just have a personal desire to perform Bach’s Goldberg Variations with the same fanatical precision as Glenn Gould. How hard could that be?

If you’re looking for fast results, but your resolutions aren’t the kind that can be accomplished in a short period of time, then be prepared to make some sacrifices. Say goodbye to Facebook, Netflix, and the mind-numbing anaesthetic of most YouTube videos. All these things represent impediments to the actualization of your resolutions. They’ve got to go. And that can only mean one thing: withdrawal.

You’ve been warned.

  1. Give up hope

Hope is a charlatan, a bargain-basement sorcerer conjuring visions of wealth, success, and pleasure – visions just as fleeting and intangible as the smoke rising from that cigarette you wish you could stop smoking. Send hope packing along with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and another World Series for the Blue Jays.

Remember: failure is an option. Anyone who tells you that it isn’t is a fool. When it comes to keeping a resolution that involves doing or being something you’ve never done or been before, the only way to succeed is to cultivate an excessive amount of discipline, perseverance, and a keen understanding of cause and effect. Positivity linked to pragmatism is great, but positivity linked to an unjustifiable hope is a disaster waiting to happen, as a lot of people who took out adjustable-rate subprime mortgages in the US earlier this century can tell you. Never trust hope.

So if you’re one of those people who think that no New Year can begin without a lot of hand-wringing and self-loathing, good luck to you. I myself am off to pick up a chocolate cake from Safeway’s, a bottle of the finest cheap Chardonnay I can find, and a pack of Rothmans. I’ve got a date with the Gilmore Girls tonight, and I don’t want to keep them waiting any longer than absolutely necessary.

See also:

Going for gold: how Olympians set and reach goals


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