Ossie Bladine - One resolution at a time
This commentary was originally planned to run just before New Year’s Eve, promoting resolutions with examples and tips to follow through. But what’s the point when nearly a quarter of Americans cheated or gave up on their resolution less than a week into 2013?
According to a YouGov omnibus survey, 11 percent of Americans had already broken at least one resolution six days into the new year, while 22 percent had cheated a few times but were generally doing well.
The alarming part is that just 33 percent of those surveyed made a resolution. According to the survey, one-third of Americans making resolutions are cheaters, another third are quitters, and two-thirds of Americans overall are too lazy to make a resolution in the first place.
I write this with tongue-in-cheek intentions to promote a better custom of New Year’s resolutions in our society. I am neither an expert in the field of human behavior nor did I seek advice from a professional psychiatrist or life coach for this article. I am just a guy with a couple solid resolutions under my belt. So here are tips for a successful New Year’s resolution.
- It’s not too late. A resolution needs no timetable. Take, for example, the American theologian Jonathan Edwards. During a two-year period after graduating from Yale University, at age 19 or 20, Edwards compiled 70 resolutions that he committed to reviewing once every week. Of course, the New Year’s resolution creates a 52-week timetable to work with. Just three weeks in, there is still plenty of time to consider, reconsider or recommit to a resolution.
- Be specific; get creative. One downfall of New Year’s resolutions, as I see it, is the blandness of resolutions themselves. The YouGov report listed the most popular resolutions: Lose weight (37 percent), get fitter/do more exercise (28 percent), reduce stress/relax more (17 percent), budget better (17 percent), and so on. Don’t just lose weight; set a goal to work toward. Don’t just “get fitter”; commit to running 500 miles this year, or doing 15,000 push-ups and sit-ups. Resolutions work better when they are quantified and specific. It also aids in creating a resolution that can be worked on all year. You can spend the first two months of the year budgeting better, but by spring you feel the resolution is complete. Practice makes perfect, and doing something for 52 weeks makes it more likely to benefit you, long-term, than practicing for just a couple months. Don’t merely budget better, commit to paying every bill the day it arrives in the mail, or set your eyes on a luxury item to be purchased at the end of the year as a reward for better budgeting.
- Don’t be selfish. The most popular resolutions are ones that benefit only the person making them. While there is some residual benefit to resolutions like find love (10 percent), quit smoking (7 percent) or get a better job (16 percent), the crux of the benefit goes to the maker. The best resolutions are those that benefit yourself and others. The optimist in me believes a healthy dose of good New Year’s resolutions can go a long way in society. If everyone committed to just a small resolution that helps themselves and others, the overall benefit to society could be huge.
With that goal in mind, I became an advocate for New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, while living in Vancouver, Wash., I came up with a New Year’s resolution: Buy only locally-baked bread. Local has a lot of definitions when it comes to food. In this case, I went for ultra-local — not even Franz was local enough for me. In 2011, I bought all my bread from one of Vancouver’s downtown bakeries. The bakeries certainly appreciated the resolution.
In 2012, my resolution was to stop illegally downloading music. As a product of Napster, Audiogalaxy, Kazaa, Morpheus and so on, I had spent over half my life downloading music for free online. I’m happy to say I’ve quit the practice, better supporting musicians. (This resolution was assisted by Spotify, a music streaming service that pays royalties and licensing fees to record companies.)
Which brings me to 2013. This year, my resolution is to volunteer more — no, not specific enough. My resolution is to volunteer once a month. The Helping Hands section printed regularly in the News-Register has a revolving list of volunteer opportunities from which to choose. The benefit to others is obvious. The benefit to me is the opportunity to learn more about the community. It will make me a better resident and a better news editor.
Remember, it is not too late to make a great 2013 resolution. Think of something simple and creative that will return residual benefits to other people. You’ll be surprised how little things add up over time.
Ossie Bladine, news editor for the News-Register since June 2012, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-687-1269.