Monday, January 6, 2014

New year, new you?

2014 is underway, and I'm sure there are those that made resolutions. I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions... In fact, I've never made one. I've never really seen the point of treating the start of the new year as some sort of magic window into self betterment. But just as Bono of U2 fame said,
nothing really changes on New Year's day.

Some wonder if they should even make resolutions, and if they do, how to make them successful. In my local paper, Billy Graham wrote that the key to a successful resolution is to turn to Christ and ask him to help change you into the person he wants you to be. But I feel like that's a silly and pointless thing to do. Yes, one reason is that there is no Jesus to ask for guidance from. But even if Jesus was real, it still doesn't make sense. Christianity teaches of Jesus as the great forgiver. That he will forgive any and all 'sins' so long as you believe in him as your savior.

But that's a problem. In my opinion, one who will forgive anything whatsoever doesn't really care what you do or who you are. If anything can be forgiven, there is no reason to change if you follow Jesus. At least in regard to trying to seek salvation. So the only reason to better ones self, would be for the sake of those around them. But Christianity teaches that this life is unimportant in comparison to the next one they are promising. So, is asking for guidance from a religion  that views this life as unimportant, and will forgive even the most heinous of crimes really one someone should look to as a template to mold their life? I sure don't think so.

But why do resolutions often seem to fail? Sometimes people just don't make realistic resolutions. But more often than not, the reason is that people just aren't willing to put in the work needed to make it happen. If you resolve to get that big promotion, you'll need to put in those hours of hard work at the office and try and stand out. If you resolve to lose those extra pounds, you'll need to watch what you eat, diet, work out, or some combination of those. Maybe you resolve to be a better parent. If so, that will take considerable work as well.

And in this world of instant gratification, many give up on their resolutions when the results don't manifest on their unrealistic scheduled. If you resolve to have that bikini body you always wanted, you need to be in it for the long haul. You have to have determination and patience. If you haven't dropped three sizes after a month, the answer is not to give up. Maybe you're only one size smaller. But so what? For some reason, people tend to act like that failure to meet their end goal in the blink of the eye somehow constitutes failure. Maybe they just want to have an excuse to give up so they can go back to the way things were. But I don't see that as a failure. I see it as the first in a line of successes needed to reach that end goal.

And quite often, the unrealistic goal is not really necessary. All the diet plans will try to make it look like a woman has to be a size zero. But the reality is that you don't need to be a size zero to be beautiful. And those pictures of models that are held up as idols of perfection are often so fake, Photoshopped, and covered in makeup, that the actual person in the shot likely looks very different in real life. 

And I hate that these unrealistic examples are hoisted up as what women should be shooting for. But the sad truth is that this is creating a generation of women who think they aren't good enough, it can kill their confidence, and when they can't quickly replicate that fake example, just give up. I think that's sad, because you don't need skin and bones to be beautiful. And many women resolving to make that transformation may already be beautiful as they are, but have been convinced they aren't. Maybe all they need to lose is that one size or two to be in a more fit or healthy range. They may be half-way to where they need to be, when they prematurely give up due to false expectations. So girls, don't give up just because you aren't a size zero yet. And guys, just because you don't have six-pack abs yet doesn't mean that you failed. You're likely making progress, and at least one step forward should be considered a small victory, rather than failure.

Another thing I don't understand with resolutions is the timing. Why wait for the new year to try and enact change. Often things that people want to change are something that have become habits. If you want to quit smoking, don't wait until the new year. By waiting, you are only making it even more habitual, and thus, harder to stop doing. So by waiting, you are really making it more difficult to quit. It also makes me wonder why you are waiting. Sometimes I'll hear that someone wants to eat better, but they set a date in the future to start this change. They say that they want one more week to enjoy fast food, and actually end up binging on it. To me, this may actually suggest that they know they eat better, but they enjoy the way things are too much now to really want to.

So I feel that if there's something you want to change in your life, you should do it right then. When I was young, I had a bad habit of chewing on my fingernails. Eventually, I decided that enough was enough and stopped cold turkey. That time was fairly easy, because I was aware of when i was doing it. But sometimes things won't be so immediate. I once found myself in a job that I absolutely hated. I looked and looked and looked for another job. For over a year, in fact. It seemed like nothing was going to change, and I could have just given up. But I didn't. I made the best of things, and kept looking. And eventually, I did find a new job and escaped the one I was in. 

Similarly, when I decided to look for love, like many I assume, it wasn't any easy case of just going on dates and, bam!, I found the one. Well, I did find the one. But not after a few bumps in the road. I was led on, blown off, and even stood up. Like the person that didn't get their 5 minute miracle abs, I could have just given up. But them I found a wonderful girl that in just a few years time would become my beautiful wife. So if you don't get want you want right away, stay the course, because it may be just around the corner.

The problem with some resolutions is that they are really more of wishes than anything else. But a wish isn't good enough to change things in your life. I can wish to be able to win a marathon. But that wish isn't going to get me there. I would need determination and a huge will to make that happen. It will take lots of work. A wish is just an idea, but the work is what makes it happen, and if you are lacking half of that equation, you'll never make the finish.

So don't bother with resolutions. If you want to make change in your life, do it what you make that choice. And really work for it. Don't give up too early, or fall victim to the false expectations of the day. 

-Brain Hulk

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