Stop Fondling the New Year’s Resolutions

That’s right, hands where we can see them. Nice and slow. Step away from the idea.

Whether it’s our habits, our health, or our relationships, we all want to heal something. What could be more tempting than aparty-cartoon_1.jpg day where the world, all together, says “ready, steady, go!” and we charge en masse to our better, newer selves? When people join together, tremendous things can happen. Barns are raised, hay is harvested, novels are written in a month, and thousands of runners in silly costumes clog urban streets while fleeing lethal charging bulls.

Okay, so maybe not all mass activity is good.

Which brings us to those New Year’s promises. As seductive as the idea is, there is an ugly, slutty side to New Year’s resolutions. Few things are worse than a cheap, one-night stand type of resolution. A nasty hang-over feeling sets in around February when your best intentions have gone awry and you wake up feeling a bit used. If you go through that kind of experience enough times, despair takes root and the only successful resolution you end up with is a resolution to never again be a sucker enough to fall for a New Year’s romantic promise of change. No one needs that kind of psychic hit. So is there no true resolution love? Is it all a sleazy lounge trick? What’s an informed changer going to do?

Here are some science-based, practical Doc Gurley tips on how to make your New Year genuine and resolute. Read on, and feel the love.

Behavior change research says that the change that sticks is usually a change that is thought-out and specific. The odds are in your favor if you do some Resolution Planning. What’s the difference between planning for change and a typical New Year’s resolution? Check the examples below and see if you can spot the difference:

1) At 11:47 pm, an anonymous party-goer with slightly slurred speech and spinach dip wedged in his teeth turns to you and says, “Hey, what’s your New Yearsh resolution?” and you say, “Um, well, I haven’t really…oh, what the hell, I’m going to stop smoking!” The word passes quickly through the crowd, with many back-slaps of congratulations, and everyone shouts, “Yeah, wa-hoo, you’re a star,” as they raise their glasses in your honor. You feel a strong, fleeting sense of tawdry triumph and pride. You ignore the ominous Hollywood background music that coincidentally, at that moment, begins to play from the iPod shuffle sound system.

2) You’ve been flirting with stopping smoking for a couple of weeks. You even cut back one-half a cig for two days last month. You had a fling in 2006 where you stopped altogether for a week, then cracked when you found yourself biting not just your fingernails, but your toenails too (urk). Is it true love, you ask yourself this time around–can you make a real commitment? You take out a piece of paper and list all the reasons you like to smoke. As you let yourself grieve for your future loss of cigarettes, you try to find the essence of what is appealing to you about smoking–more than just the physical cravings. You realize smoking has something to do with your sense of self. It’s your last bad habit. You feel like you will have become a sad, washed out suburban cliche’ without a smoldering ciggy in your hands. This time, to help make quitting stick, you make an appointment on New Year’s Eve to get the edgy blue mohawk hairdo you so desperately wanted during your Sex Pistols phase (but couldn’t get then because of your corporate job). This time, because of your insight and planning, quitting smoking sticks. Besides clean breath, you have other, new February joys. You also get the pleasure of thinking to yourself, take that, you boring geezers, as you proudly sport your new ‘do, squeaking in your orthopedic shoes down the linoleum hall of your nursing home. If the aide will give you a ride in the MapVan, you’re going to reward yourself at the six month mark with a nipple ring.

See the difference? Stay tuned to Doc Gurley for more practical, science-based tips on how to tilt the resolution odds in your favor.

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