Behaviorists are frequently cited at this time of year, reminding people that, rather than resolve to change, in the largest, most general sense, it’s better to set pragmatic realistic goals, with discrete, manageable steps toward progress. We’re warned that changing our behavior takes work, planning, practice, repetition, accountability, rewards. We’re cautioned not to expect big, instant, miraculous, transformations. And still, we make our resolutions. We pledge and vow and make oaths that this year will be Different.
I’m wary about making resolutions. I know perfectly well that projects that seem do-able and problems that seem solve-able now—when I’m on vacation, in control of my own time, not pulled in twenty different directions by a hundred different people—can go right off the rails, right out the window as soon as I’m swept back into the post-holiday maelstrom. But now is exactly the time when I have the breathing space and clarity to see what needs work, and the uncluttered focus to envision how to get that work done, so I can’t help it. Like everyone else, I’m compelled to make my vows: this year will be Different.
How so? I could follow the advice that fills the internet in the days leading up to January 1. It’s all good, idealistic, noble…a little grandiose, in some cases. How do I manage to simultaneously embrace uncertainty, seek opportunities, stop and reflect, remove and improve, and make friends with risk? —While also being more grateful, playful, oxygenated, compassionate, connected, and still? If I were capable of doing all of that at once, I wouldn’t need to make resolutions at all, would I? because I’d be sitting in a temple on the top of a mountain, and people would make pilgrimages to me to get help with their resolutions. At the moment, I’m just a poor, muddled, seeker along with everyone else.
So, what more modest goals can I set for myself?
- as the prophetess says, “form no romantic attachments with alcoholics, workaholics, commitment-phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional f**kwits, or perverts”;
- eat homemade food as much as possible;
- dance more;
- be selfish with my time—to think, read, and write (and dance);
- spring for extra leg-room (don’t underestimate the restorative power of little luxuries; don’t feel guilty about doing yourself a favor once in a while);
- interrupt more; I don’t have to do all the talking, but I’ve got things to say, and dammit, the rest of the world can just give me a second or two of attention to say it;
- act like the kind of woman I suspect I am (on a good day, with a lot of cautiousness about vanity and grandiosity and not acting spoiled);
- doubt myself less (in particular, I will trust my instincts—but must also try to speed them up: I’m rarely wrong in assessing other people, but I can be damagingly slow to put all the pieces together);
- dance more.
- quite while I’m ahead, and recognize that I already have everything and everyone that I need.
Happy New Year!