by Chason Gordon
- The Capitol Hill Times -
I make plenty of “To Do” lists. In the past year, I’ve probably made around 747 To Do lists, each of which had five to 10 tasks to do that day. I never feel more confident about my life than when I’m making a To Do list, and I’m never less confident than when I find an old one without a single thing accomplished. The other day I found a To Do list from three years ago that said, “Pick up Brian after work.” I don’t know what happened to Brian, but I hope that he’s okay. Of the thousands of tasks on my 747 To Do lists, I achieved maybe 11 of them. Most of those were groceries that I needed.
The New Year’s resolution is just a fancy version of the To Do list, except that now the list is on New Year’s, and you don’t write it down, so you don’t have to remember that you never completed it. The moment that you start thinking of what you want to do, you begin imagining a fantasy version of yourself, doing everything right and making only good choices. You watch him as if it’s a movie. The fantasy guy beckons you to start doing things so that you can enjoy the life that he’s living, as well, but you prefer to just watch.
Making a New Year’s resolution is certainly a bold, illogical move. After spending an entire year gaining weight, probably making less money, and becoming a generally worse person all around, you now seem to believe that this artificial marker, this promise drunkenly made to yourself, is somehow going to stick. No bookie would take that bet, no bank would grant that loan, and no (think of your own third example). Your personal statistics and behavioral patterns are clear as day, but because you’re drunk and the sky is lit up with fireworks, you really think that it’s going to happen this time. Fool!
Sometimes, people fail to live up to their New Year’s resolution because the resolutions are too lofty and ambitious. One year I made a resolution to go to the moon. I can’t remember if I ever achieved that goal, but it’s certainly a pretty hard thing to do. Perhaps you want to buy an island, sail the world by raft, conquer a democratic nation or call your mother. Why set yourself up for a fall like that? The average person can’t accomplish those things in a lifetime, not even Ryan Gosling.
It’s important to scale back your expectations. Start with baby steps, but not a human baby. Those steps are too big. I’m talking about little baby duck steps, which is only like a millimeter or something. You want to lose weight, spend more time with your family and find a meaningful relationship? That’s great. How about you just buy a hat? Go buy a hat. That’s a perfectly respectable resolution. Because once you buy the hat and put it on your head, you’ll be feeling pretty good about yourself. It’s not like buying a hat is so easy. You’ve got to find one that fits, choose a theme (sports?) and keep it on your head. Who knows what could get in the way of that.
Look, you have to take your New Year’s resolutions seriously or they will never be accomplished. It’s not enough to simply make them and then keep drinking champagne until you pass out in the dog crate. The only way to make sure that you get them done is to begin them right as the clock strikes midnight. You want to lose weight in 2014? Well, take off that party hat and do 50 pushups right as “Auld Lang Syne” is playing. I don’t care if everyone is busy celebrating. This is the time to show you mean business.
After the pushups, book a trip online, download the Berlitz app, and take a few wallets from the coats piled in the bedroom. Bam! You’re already travelling more, learning a new language and making more money, and it’s not even 12:30 a.m. Look at you!
There’s a certain hierarchy of lists. You have the To Do list at the bottom, then New Year’s resolutions, the 5-year plan, the 10-year plan, marriage vows, and, finally, your will, which usually contains a To Do list that other people have to do for you.
Perhaps we’re going about it all wrong. Instead of planning to do things, just lie to your friends about having done them, and keep lying, until the weight of all your lies is suffocating. Then, you can use that pressure to go out there and truly be the person you pretended to be. If that doesn’t work, move.
On twitter @chasongordon