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Gimme a smile: Perfect New Year's resolutions

Posted: January 5, 2014 - 1:02am

Happy New Year! A new year, a fresh start — time to make those New Year’s resolutions.

The whole concept of New Year’s resolutions, like the advertising industry, is predicated on the notion that you want more out of life. It’s all about self-improvement — you need to think that you’re not good enough the way you are. That’s probably why New Year’s resolutions follow New Year’s Eve, traditionally a night to indulge in excess of every description. In the sober light of New Year’s Day, you pause to take stock and address Bob Marley’s question from his song “Exodus:” “Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” If not, New Year’s resolutions are the way to go.

There are two kinds of resolutions: the daily habit kind, and the more global change-your-ways kind.

The daily habit type of resolution, while admirable, is the absolute hardest to keep. For example, you might resolve to make your bed every morning. You faithfully make your bed for thirteen days straight, and then you slack off and leave a slovenly heap of blankets trailing off the side of your mattress. Two weeks into the new year, and you’ve failed for all time. Your resolution was to make your bed every day, remember? You missed a day — automatic F. So now that you’ve failed, there’s no incentive to keep up with the bed making for the remaining 352 days of the year. Even if you have a perfect record for the rest of the year, that one day you missed messes up the entire resolution. Might as well just leave the bed unmade for the duration, and try again next year.

Then you have the change-your-ways type of resolution. Rather than specifying 50 push-ups every morning, you resolve to get more exercise in the New Year. You might even resolve to lose weight in order to fit back into those cute jeans you wore in 1995 and still keep hopefully in your bottom drawer. Since there’s not a daily component to this type of resolution, there’s not so much incentive to give up when you inevitably lapse. But by the same token, you don’t have that daily reminder that you need to exercise, so the risk is that you will get to December, gaze at the bountiful plates of fudge and Christmas cookies surrounding you, and realize that you’ve only done a minimal bit of exercise throughout the year and have not lost one single pound. What good did your New Year’s resolutions do you in the long run?

But what if — in a perfect world — what if you could make New Year’s resolutions for other people?

Think of the possibilities! You could make a resolution for your kids to clean their rooms and do the dishes without being asked, eat their green vegetables, and limit their screen time to half an hour a day without even saying, “Can’t I just finish this level?” Or, if you were a kid, you could resolve for your parents to give you a weekly allowance of one million dollars.

If you could make New Year’s resolutions for others, you could resolve for your local librarians to declare a fine holiday, and make a resolution for your baseball team to at least try to win more games than they lose, for once. You could resolve for your cubical mate to bathe more frequently, and resolve for your overweight relatives to join Weight Watchers and finally lose that ten pounds they’ve been talking about for decades.

You could even alter the fate of the world as we know it. You could make a resolution for the Democrats and Republicans to work together in Congress for the good of the American people, with no thought for political gain. You could resolve for the world leaders to end all war across the globe. You could achieve peace in your lifetime, all through the simple power to make New Year’s resolutions for other people.

The trick, of course, would be to get them to follow through on your resolutions. But you can only make resolutions for others in the perfect world, remember? In the perfect world, all things are possible.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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