So … what’s the point of New Year’s resolutions?

Hey Elderly Aunt, what’s the point of New Year’s resolutions? I set them every year. By February (sometimes earlier) most, if not all, are broken. Are we just fooling ourselves with this “tradition”? 

Yes, dear reader. If you make a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that you don’t keep, it seems to the Elderly Aunt that what you doing is confusing wishing to change with resolving to change.

Wishing to change involves magic—special New Year’s whaps from our mythical Fairy Godpersons, as it were. On January 1st (preferably as soon as the ball drops in Times Square) we make a wish to alter our behavior in this or that way and—whap!—our behavior is changed.  No fuss! No muss! And absolutely no discomfort.

Fat chance, right? 

I don’t know about your Fairy Godperson, dear reader, but the Elderly Aunt’s has been a life-long no show, no matter how assiduously she channels her inner Peter Pan and believes in fairies of all sorts. Of course, her Fairy Godpersons could also be relatives of the Soup Nazi, arbitrarily withholding New Year’s whaps instead of soup. But somehow I think it’s more likely that we’re on our own when it comes to changing our imperfect ways. No matter what day of the year we pick to let the change begin.

Still, kudos to you, dear reader, for facing your own imperfections squarely enough to wish to change them. As to how to turn your New Year’s wish into a bona fide New Year’s resolution, the Elderly Aunt is happy to offer this advice.

Bullet points, anyone?

  • Be very clear about what you want to change and why you want to change it. Focus on the pay-off of instead of allowing yourself to remain stuck in the inevitable feelings of deprivation and discomfort. Acknowledge that the behavior you want to change is ingrained and familiar—as comforting in its own way to you as Linus’s blanket is to him. Giving it up will be stressful.
  • Be realistic and resolve specifically, instead of in broad generalities. Instead of “I will exercise more,” resolve, “I will go to the gym three times a week on my lunch hour.” Or if you got a fitness watch thingee as a holiday gift, “I will take so many steps a day.” 
  • Get up every morning and resolve to keep your New Year’s resolution today. No matter what. Don’t debate with yourself. Just Do It!
  • Understand that your old dysfunctional behavior will want you back. It will sit on your shoulder like the seductive little devil that it is and whisper, “One tiny backslide won’t hurt.” The Elderly Aunt, however, is delighted to sit on your other shoulder and remind you that backsliding on her own New Year’s resolutions proved to be the slipperiest of slopes. Alas, she has learned from experience that one backslide inevitably leads to another. As your designated Resolution Coach, the Elderly Aunt suggests you tell the devil to go to hell, as it were—that your old dysfunctional behavior is simply no longer an option, and you’re not going to engage in it no matter what. Even if your hair combusts.

One more thing.

As she has aged (and aged) the Elderly Aunt has given herself permission to use New Year’s Day to focus on what she does right as well as what she does wrong. She has a sneaking suspicion that a lot of us are more comfortable feeling bad about ourselves than we are feeling good about ourselves. 

With this in mind, the Elderly Aunt suggests you give yourself a couple of official New Year’s Pats on the Back. Dare to like yourself! Just because it’s New Year’s Day doesn’t mean we have to wallow in our imperfections.

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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