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I don’t have a New Year’s resolution. To most people, this implies one of two things: Either my life is so chock-full of love, happiness and fulfillment that I couldn’t imagine it getting any better, or I’ve reached a state of depression so miserable and dark as to erase any hope of improvement. I’m either sky-high or rock-bottom, Bill Gates or Charlie Sheen, a high-roller in Vegas or a hooker in Detroit.
Actually, I’m neither. I’m a young adult caught between two stages of development, independent enough to live in my own apartment but not independent enough to pay the rent (thanks, Dad). I get good-enough grades, have a steady circle of friends, and manage to stay in better-than-average shape. All in all, my life is pretty good. Perfect? Of course not. Miserable? Absolutely not. Like the majority of my friends and acquaintances, I’m somewhere in between.
Why didn’t I make a New Year’s resolution, then? First of all, they tend to be incredibly stupid. I don’t watch reality TV and I already brush my teeth twice a day. Second of all — and most importantly — they set you up for failure. You get through January, maybe half of February, but come Valentine’s Day you’re pulling your hair out and crying in the mirror because you stayed up all night watching reruns of The Jersey Shore. And you forgot to brush your teeth.
I don’t think a trivial goal is worth that kind of stress. It’s like trying to hold water in your hands, or stand a dime on its edge. You can work your absolute hardest, but sooner or later the water’s going to slip through your fingers, and the dime’s going to fall. You’ll feel disappointed at first, but over the course of time (a minute, maybe two) you’ll realize that it didn’t really matter in the first place. And at the end of the day, you’ll have accomplished nothing.
That doesn’t mean you’re incapable of accomplishing anything at all. All I’m saying is that you’re not going to get it done overnight, and if you expect otherwise, you’re courting disappointment. You’re not going to go to the gym every day. You’re not going to go cold turkey on chocolate. You have great expectations now, sure, but come June they’ll have melted away with the mountain snow. You’re not a robot that can be built, programmed and finely tuned for perfection; you’re a fucking human being, and you’re going to fuck up.
You’ll skip out on the gym because it’s raining, or because you have a cold, or because your cat died, or because you took the stairs at work (and that counts as exercise, right?), and while you’re busy not working out, you’ll stuff your face with Cadbury eggs and watch bum fights on YouTube because, let’s face it, you’re a pretty shitty person at heart.
Then — and this is the kicker — you’ll give up on your New Year’s resolution altogether. After all, you failed. You aimed to work out every day, and you missed a day. You could work out every remaining day of the year, but it wouldn’t matter. You’re left with no other choice than to put off those goals until next year, when the giant imaginary slate is wiped clean once more. In the meantime, your hopes and dreams are swept quietly under the rug.
All because of one day.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A goal hinges on progress, not perfection. Work wouldn’t be work without a few major setbacks. Unfortunately, we seem to be operating under an all-or-nothing mentality. The concept of a New Year’s resolution paints every day as a chance to fail rather than an opportunity to succeed.
That’s no way to get things done. The most successful people are pragmatic people; they work with what they have and they never give up. It was Thomas Edison who said he found 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb … before he found the one that worked. That’s the way progress is: moving from Failed Attempt No. 1 to Failed Attempt No. 2. If you throw in the towel after the first fuck-up, you’re never going to get to the last one.
By all means, dream big. Just have enough humility to accept failure, and enough courage to get up and try again. You’ll never achieve perfection, and if you wait until next year to take another stab at it, you’re going to waste this one.
2014 is a long ways off, but 2013 isn’t slowing down.
Forget New Year’s resolutions! Gnawing on a Cadbury egg while watching bums/hobos go to town on each other is like Christmas morning for Mark Strong.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.