Mid-February: Trial memberships have expired, and the gym is back to normal after a level of chaos that meant bumping shoulders (and then some) in the locker room and awkward "sup, bro" conversations in line for the water fountain. Starbucks is selling out of apple fritters again. And cigarette sales are up. If New Year's resolutions were sold as stock, we'd be purging right after getting rich.
According to the University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 percent of Americans make a resolution, and only 8 percent of those folks succeed in achieving it. I typically fall into the 45 percent and 92 percent, respectively. But this year, I'm doing things differently.
In late 2012, I was reading a year-end piece in Saks' fashion blog, POV, and I was struck by Kristian Laliberte's resolutions. First, "Put my clothes out before I go to sleep." I thought: Whoa, I did that in junior high, and it meant the difference between 5 minutes of snooze or eating two Pop Tarts instead of one. Laliberte also resolved to, "Learn how to sew a button on pants, shirts, and jackets." I recalled that the last time I had a button sewn on a nice winter coat I was charged $12. So what if instead of resolving to be more thrifty, I took baby steps toward some big goal and treated those baby steps like they were the big goal?
Could it be that we're all doing it wrong? Manipulated by clever marketing campaigns and peer pressure, we futilely make sweeping gestures of reform every January. Maybe if we fix a few bad habits, the big bad behaviors will start to fix themselves?
Take a look at my big resolutions below with the small steps I'm taking. They're working out pretty well. This might be the best I've felt since 2001, and back then we were riding a post-Y2K non-apocalyptic high for at least three months.
Be fit. Some say six packs are made in the kitchen, some swear they're made in the gym. I think they're barely ever made, so I don't know why we all resolve to get them. Work drinks, late dinners and bad genetics will get in the way almost all of the time, so I replaced that all-too-common resolution with one that's easier to do and even simpler to track: Never more than three days without working out.
Be green. We 20-somethings have been subliminally trained to think green -- the hottest brunch spots are "farm to table," and our coffee is organic. That said, starting a neighborhood recycling program is ambitious. And as much as I'd love to go to somewhere tropical on a dolphin saving campaign, turning off all of the lights before I leave my apartment is more than I've done in a long time, and it's something.
Be financially reasonable. Rather than set aside a percentage of my income or keep credit card bills in the triple digits, I've resolved to log into the financial aggregator app I use to see what I have (and what I don't) every Friday. I go into weekends a little more carefully, and low balance texts don't catch me off-guard.
Don't be gross. People say they brush their teeth twice a day. They don't. Sometimes I work late, I indulge in too many cocktails, I get lazy. No longer. And on top of twice a day, I let the two-minute timer on my electronic toothbrush run out.
Sleep. I've long been hearing how important it is to get eight hours of sleep -- never going to happen. It's not realistic that I go to bed at 11 p.m., ever. But to stop myself from binging on Homeland until 4 a.m.? Sort of doable. Rather than set a sleep quota, I get myself in bed by 1 a.m. on weeknights. Unreasonable to many, but better than many alternatives for me.
Sleep some more. Turns out setting out clothes the night before really does mean both Pop Tarts in the pack instead of just one.
I've felt so good about the marginal, barely-measurable progress I've made in one month that I already have a 2014 "wish list" started. Spoiler alert: It's looking like next year may be the year I open all of the magazines I subscribe to (notice how I didn't say read?).
Disclaimer: It could be that none of this actually works. In fact, I'm single, sometimes eat pizza for breakfast and my room is a mess.
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