Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 26, 2005, Herald Journal

The New Year’s curse

By DAVE (IVAN) COX

One of the joys of the holiday season is the annual round of New Year’s resolutions.

We can count on the fact that at any New Year’s party we attend, someone will burden us with their personal resolutions for the year ahead.

I don’t know where this custom started, but I would not miss it if it were to just go away.

I don’t have any problem with people who want to better themselves. Maybe they want to lose weight, or be kind to animals, or spend more time with their families. I applaud their resolve. I just don’t want to hear about it.

Part of the problem is the fleeting nature of these good intentions.

The people making these resolutions are adamant about them now, but experience has shown that once the excitement of the holiday season has faded, they are likely to pay their precious resolutions as much attention as a speed limit.

And why do people feel compelled to share these things in the first place?

Maybe they feel that if they convince enough other people of their conviction, they will start to believe it themselves.

Maybe they are appealing for sympathy, or want to make themselves look good in the eyes of others.

The problem, especially for one with a basically cynical nature, is that there does not seem to be a good way to respond to these outpourings of earnest intentions.

When faced with someone who insists on inflicting his resolutions on us, we have a few options.

We can smile and nod and mumble some appropriate platitudes. The danger of this approach is that the perpetrator may think we are trying to blow him off or ignore him (which, of course, we are). He may, in this event, feel compelled to try harder to convince us of his commitment.

Another option would be to tell the person what we really think about New Year’s resolutions, and point out the success rate of previous resolutions. This, however, is likely to provoke the subject to try even harder to convince us of his sincerity, and to bore us with all the reasons why, this year, things will be different.

The third option would be to cast aside reason, put on a broad smile, and enthusiastically congratulate him on his clever and noble resolve. This course is not especially appealing, and it would, at the very least, be insincere. And it still might not have the desired effect of making him go away.

The whole resolution thing is a strange concept, and it gets stranger.

Not only do these people want to burden us with listening to their resolutions, they are determined to discover what our resolutions are.

Apparently, they have assessed our character, and are convinced that there must be many things about ourselves that we are anxious to change.

I have even had helpful individuals approach me and offer suggestions as to what my resolutions should be.

I have not, as yet, acted on these suggestions.

If pressed on the subject of my personal New Year’s resolution, I will go with a classic. I will tell the inquisitive party that I am not going to drink anymore.

I certainly don’t intend to drink any less, but I feel reasonably comfortable saying that I am not going to drink any more.

I don’t have an issue with people who wish to better themselves. I don’t understand why this moment of enlightenment has to be tied to a date on the calendar, or why people insist on burdening others with their intentions, but I have no objection to the concept of self-improvement.

We all have opportunities every day to do things to improve ourselves, and to do things to make the world better for ourselves and those around us.

I would suggest that people not limit themselves to one day a year to make changes they feel appropriate. Why wait until Jan. 1?

In any case, I am a lot more convinced by actions than by empty promises. If there is something you want to do, by all means, go out and do it. If you are successful, people will eventually notice. And they may even thank you for not boring them with the process every step of the way.

If you still feel compelled to make New Year’s resolutions, that is your choice.

Just do the rest of us a favor, and keep them to yourself.


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