We all know how successful most New Year’s resolutions are. According to Wikipedia, 52% of people who make resolutions believe they’ll succeed, but only 12% of them really do. That’s supported by another study that says 78% of resolutions fail. The odds are not with us.
And yet, we keep making them. I loved hearing Ellen Degeneres’ resolution suggestions – lose weight, start exercising, and drink more – then you know you’ll at least succeed at one out of three. Gyms are wall-to-wall people in January. You can barely make a turn in Zumba class without stepping on someone, and forget about getting on a treadmill without a 45 minute wait. All the stores are selling exercise equipment and organizers (another big resolution goal – get more organized). Weight Watchers is running ads every ten minutes on television.
And yet, by February…the lines are gone at the gym, and Zumba class is safe again. The organizers and elliptical machines are on sale, and we’ve all just moved on with our lives, with those lofty resolutions left in the dust.
That’s why I’ve stopped making specific resolutions. When I make specific resolutions, I’m a failure within weeks, and then what’s the sense of continuing? “I’ll get up at 5AM three times a week to exercise before work!” Yeah, right. By week two, I’m feeling nothing but guilt because I don’t have the willpower to keep my resolution. “I’m going to clean up my desk and organize all my books and papers and keep them that way from now on!” Uh-huh. It will take me half the year to organize the clutter I already have, and then I’ll be six months behind on organizing anything that comes in between now and then.
So, for the past few years, I’ve avoided specifics and gone with themes. I highly recommend it. A theme, especially one that can be drilled down to one word, is easy to remember, and actions can be measured against it throughout the year. But without the specific “I’m going to lose 30 lbs by April”, the pressure, fear, guilt and angst are gone. Two years ago, my theme was “de-stuff”, as in reduce the amount of “stuff” in my house and my life. I never vowed to eliminate all of it, but just to work at it all year, and I did, with some success. Last year, it was “focus”. I had varying degrees of success with that one, but it was a good mantra to keep in my head. And I did focus long enough to start this blog and stick with it, and to take steps toward a new career.
Yup, I started some good things last year. I went through a self-examination period and started being far more authentic in my approach to life and the people in it. I started a blog that had over 1300 viewings in eight months (thank you!). I started Weight Watchers (twice). I established a business and registered it a corporation. I got my first paycheck for writing.
That’s all well and good, but it’s really not remarkable. After all, I’m a “starter”. I’m fabulous at starting things. Give me a great idea and I’ll run with it. Put me in charge of a project, and I’ll own that puppy right up to the grand roll-out. I’ll organize the workers, I’ll create the agendas and have fun icebreakers at the meetings and give everyone chocolate and throw a celebratory party after we’ve reached our goal. But then I’m done. The thrill is gone, and I’m looking for the next bright, shiny thing to catch my attention. I have at least five half-read books sitting around the house (and one on my new Kindle). I have half-finished blog ideas, half-finished drawings, half-finished photo albums (but all those old snapshots are brilliantly organized and labeled in a box somewhere!), a half-finished college degree, a half-organized desk (don’t look in the right hand drawer…), a barely-started novel, a barely-started business. Seriously, I could go on and on. I’m a starter. I’m a brilliant starter. Truly gifted at it. I’m a planner. I love buying supplies for the “big start”. Special colored folders and highlighters will help my desk. New clothes hangers will help the closet. A new book will tell me how to succeed. Yup. I’m damned good at starting – I have raised it to an art form.
But I think it’s time for me to develop some finishing skills. And that’s my theme for 2011. Finish. Carry through. Avoid distractions. Keep plowing forward, even after the thrill of starting had gone. Ignore that bright shiny project on the horizon and finish what’s before me NOW.
I tell myself I don’t procrastinate, because I really don’t. Not on purpose. I intend to do things. I just get sidetracked. This is one of the few blog posts I’ve written without stopping at some point to check Facebook or my email, check the news, or going to the kitchen for a cookie (which then leads to “I should make tea”, then “oh, look, Hubby’s watching my favorite movie – I’ll just watch this last hour of it with him”, etc.). Why haven’t I stopped today? Because my theme/resolution is “Finish.”
Finishing is incredibly satisfying. I don’t know why I avoid it so. But this is the year that I face my fear and deal with it. I’m not going to finish everything (nor should I – some things just aren’t a good idea from the start), but I’m going to think about my theme before starting anything. Can I finish it? Is it even worth starting? Can I follow through and move past the fun part to the nitty gritty daily grind? Can I meet a deadline without stressing out? The answer is yes, of course. But from now on, for every “start” I make, I will envision what “finish” looks like, and I’ll carry through. I know my Hubby is smiling with delight at the thought (he’s a “Finisher” extraordinaire).
My theme for the year is Finish. What’s yours?