Forget Happy New Year, Here’s to a Happy Today

January 2, 2016

I understand the idea behind them. The intention is great. But please don’t do it. Don’t make resolutions this year — or ever again. Hear me out on this.

We all make or have made resolutions at the start of a new year. Sometimes they are almost said in jest because the resolutor has the keen self awareness to understand they are a pipe dream:

“I’m drinking less and joining a gym (resolutor chuckles). No, actually I mean it, I’m gonna give it a real shot this year (more chuckles).”

Other times the resolution is very serious:

“I’m drinking less and joining a gym (no chuckles).”

I recently heard a great business idea. It’s a large gym that is stocked with state-of-the-art exercise equipment in January, and is then transformed into a well-stocked bar from February through December.

If you feel the need to make resolutions, may I suggest that you instead make goals. Everyone should have goals. A goal is a way to make a change for the better. Change is necessary in order to grow physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, etc. You may think that resolutions and goals are the same thing, but I would argue that they are entirely different. A resolution is something that is practically expected (and accepted) to fail. It’s a wish that probably wasn’t really thought out or given a real chance to succeed. A goal is a set of specific plans created to turn something that is realistically possible into a reality.

Use SMART goals, which are written and tracked. Here is an example that will be more effective than resolving to join a gym.

Goal – I will lose weight.

Specific – I will lose X pounds.

Measurable – X is measurable and can be tracked by weighing myself every X and recording the data.

Action – I will get some kind of physical activity X number of days each week. I will eat better by limiting X.

Realistic – I can have a cheat meal (or day) X times a week.

Timetable – My goal will be reached by X.

The entire goal has to be attainable, so don’t declare you will become a vegetarian in order to lose twenty pounds. Don’t plan on running every day or losing ten pounds each week. Give yourself some — but not too much — wiggle room. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Still, there are a lot of X’s in this example, and it is probably no coincidence that many goals end up getting X’ed out.

SMART goals are good, but even better is making the decision to be more mindful of the present. Setting a goal — the outcome of which is somewhere down the road — is fine, but what about today? Mindfulness doesn’t happen over night; it is a practice and an attitude that can take years to master. Focusing on today instead of feeling guilt and remorse for what happened yesterday, or experiencing fear and anxiety about what may (or may not) happen tomorrow, is very counter-culture. It sure seems to make sense to me, though.

I’m far from a master at being mindful (hell, I have to remind myself to be mindful almost daily, assuming I remember…), but over the past year I’ve worked hard on living in the present and focusing on living well each day. By “living well,” I mean being physically active, finding ways to be mentally stimulated, being kind and helpful to others, spending more time with my family, and just generally appreciating and enjoying life as much as possible. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, and as I said, I’m far from a master, but I can say that over the last nine months I have lost weight, I haven’t been sick (not even a cough or cold), I sleep better (and I’m not a good sleeper by nature), and I’m happier than I’ve been at any time in my life.

I have no desire to make any resolutions this year. I will simply keep trying to live well. William Morris wrote, “The true secret to happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” Forget about making this year better than the last. Go out and make today the best it can be. Make yourself better than you were yesterday. Be grateful for all the good life has to offer. Be kind and generous. And then watch how your life improves and everything starts falling into place. Seriously.

Never mind Happy New Year, here’s to a happy today. Cheers.


3 Responses to “Forget Happy New Year, Here’s to a Happy Today”

  1. I have chosen not only to be resolution-free but goal free for 2016 as well. You do make valid points for setting realistic, achievable goals. I have realized that for me, though, true happiness has visited me in those moments when I have let life simply be. To each his own, right? Wishing you a fantastic 2016!

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