As we conclude yet another year of greed, gluttony, and sloth and teenage girls replace their now completed High School Musical 3 calendars with twelve months of images from the movie Twilight, it’s pretty much a universal truth that feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction will inspire us to try to change our ways—yet again.
New Year’s resolutions tend to be predictable, touching on a range of failings to which many of us are prone, including a lack of exercise, smoking, spending excessive time at work, and too little time with family and friends, falling into debt (a problem that is rapidly moving up in the rankings), and generally being stuck in a rut. As a last resort, after years of inertia and failed resolutions, there are even some people who resolve to, once and for all, stick to their New Year’s resolutions. A bit of circular reasoning, but noble nevertheless.
In a recent issue of the English newspaper The Daily Mail, the writer Mike Gayle took it perhaps a bit too far when he came up with a list of 1,277 resolutions, which included goals such as trying to grow a beard, wearing hats more often because he feels that he looks good in them, learning how to fold clothes properly like they do in posh clothing shops, and trying to make the miserable checkout lady smile. Those aspirations might seem trivial to you, but resolutions, when taken as a group, are usually intended to remake one’s life, which, if you ask me, seems to be a tough but worthwhile proposition.
Since nobody is perfect, it’s safe to assume that anybody could come up with a realistic resolution if he or she could gain some insight into his or her failings. Whether it’s an obvious problem, such as the viewing of Inside Edition on a daily basis, or something more subtle, such as the nagging feeling that life is passing one by, resolutions have the potential to be a call to action. Even celebrities, who, for better or oftentimes for worse, serve as role models for so many of us, can recognize that changes need to be made. Carmen Electra, for example, who has never been accused of being super-serious, said that her goal for 2009 is “to have more fun! I was just with Jenny McCarthy not too long ago, and she said, ‘Carmen, life is supposed to be fun.’ And I remembered that, it stayed in my head. And that is my goal.”
At the opposite extreme we find Joel Madden, who is in a band called Good Charlotte but probably better known as the father of Nicole Richie’s baby. Perhaps aspiring to set a new standard for grandiosity, he said, “I have been really involved with UNICEF this year. I just got back from Africa. I think what I want to focus on for the new year is advocating against violence against women and children, especially where I was in Central Africa, the Congo, and Sudan.” Personally, I think Joel would have a better chance of success if he simply resolved, like Carmen, to have more fun this year.
Sometimes resolutions are easier if they involve an absence of effort, such as in the case of television presenter and Celebrity Apprentice winner Piers Morgan, who said that his aspiration was, “to win my £100 bet with Simon Cowell that I won’t have plastic surgery in an effort to combat the evil of high-definition television.” While I would prefer that Pete Wentz would also resolve to do nothing, particularly in the realm of music, perhaps he should instead resolve to give his baby a new name that is not based on a borough of New York and a beloved Rudyard Kipling character. Of course, given that Bronx Mowgli’s mother is pop tart Ashlee Simpson, and that Pete and Ashlee’s combined intellect does not even approach that of our friend Carmen Electra, I anticipate that no such resolution will be forthcoming and that we can look forward to an unfortunately coiffed child named Brooklyn Baloo in the not-too-distant future. Remarkably, the most sensible attitude toward resolutions may have come from Lindsay Lohan (what is the world coming to?), who said, “People can make New Year’s resolutions, but I’m telling you all now, you’re all lying because you’re not going to stick to them for a year.”
So what is the solution? Well, given that I’m a clinical psychologist as well as a writer (by the way, in the first scene in my new satirical novel, The Misadventures of Oliver Booth: Life in the Lap of Luxury, which is set on New Year’s Eve, I have a lot of fun at the expense of the title character, who feels, probably just like Diddy, that he shouldn’t make any New Year’s resolutions because other people are the problem), perhaps I can offer you one worthwhile piece of advice. No philosophy will succeed if it’s discarded after one day. You see, most resolutions are made with the best of intentions as we move from December 31 into January 1, but they’re typically forgotten as we move into January 2 and once again confront those mundane but relentless stressors that can wear us down.
In fact, we need to treat every day like the beginning of a new year. You could argue that Mike Gayle became overwhelmed with trivialities when he created his to-do list, but you should note that the most important of his many resolutions, to my mind, was “Carpe diem!” Seize the day; that pretty much sums it up. Regardless of the specific issues that you need to address, do it now, don’t wait for another December 31 to arrive. Make a resolution every day of the year, as well as a continuing effort to improve your life, and don’t think like Diddy.
By David Desmond, author of The Misadventures of Oliver Booth: Life in the Lap of Luxury