Friday, January 20, 2012

Taking the Year Off

Royalty-free Image: Start on January 1
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It has taken me most of the month to decide what my 2012 resolutions will be. Like most people my New Year's resolutions tend to be repetitious. Doesn't it feel like we wait all year for the fresh start of a new year and when it arrives we peer into the same old barrel of goals, pick out a few that feel annoyingly famliar, and try to re-package them as something shiny and fresh. The truth is that I've been working on the same old resolutions for oh, maybe six or seven years now. Maybe it's time for a different strategy.

A few weeks ago I read a quotation in Self magazine that described a study on goal setting conducted by University College London.  Under the tag line Happy Life the quotation read, Sixty-six days. That's how long it takes for a new behavior to become automatic. Hit the two-month mark and be home free by picking a set time each day to practice your habit. 

Sixty-six days to what? I wondered. I spent some time imagining the people who saw that statistic, ripped it from the magazine and taped it to their bathroom mirror. Are their people out there on day twenty of a new and improved self? It made me wonder what sort of resolutions other people are chasing this year. Smarter, nicer, healthier versions of themself? Probably. But I can't seem to put my finger on just one habit that I want to devote 66 days to changing.
Several of my friends are using Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project as a springboard into 2012.

The book takes you along with Gretchen Rubin as she devotes one year of her life to the goal of finding happiness. Each month Rubin focused on a different area of her life. A month to get organized. A month to get in shape and make some fitness changes. A month to work on her marriage, and so forth. Within each month she then set more specific goals. It's an easy read and throughout the book the author does a great job of reflecting on the nature of happiness for all of us discontent humans, and suggests things that helped her to improve the different areas of her life. This is an idea that I can't wait to try.

I also read a great blog post about someone who chooses one word for her New Year's resolution. I spent two days running words through my mind, trying them on like shoes, some of them practical, some of them fun. But there are so many words that fit the version of what I ought to be more like I don't know how I could ever manage to settle for one. (Incidentally that sort of indecision might be why I have eighty-seven pairs of shoes in my closet).

Maybe you're starting to see why it's the end of January and I'm still pondering the whole resolution business. But this week someone flat out asked me what I hoped to accomplish this year in the way of resolutions and before I knew what I was saying it just popped out:

This year I'm trying not to make all the same resolutions that leave me feeling slightly disappointed in myself. I don't need any more hard and fast goals; I have notebooks full of them under my bed. I know it's kind of against the grain of my personality, but maybe I need a break from all the hard to reach expectations. Maybe I need to just do the best I can in every area, and try to be happy with what my life looks like come December. Yep, I guess what I'm saying is that as much as I love the idea of New Year's Resolutions, I'm taking the year off!

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