Great Expectations

by Dave Bittle. 0 Comments

 At long last the holiday jollification is over, with modest bits of decorative wrappings strewn about the four corners of the asylum, the esteemed kith and beloved kin long since departed, and a refrigerator weighed down with assorted Christmas pudding oddments, we enthusiastically look forward to the New Year—and someone, anyone, to gather up and stow the now bland Christmas garland and trimmings until next year.  We’ve grown tired of eyeing it all.

But wait, what would the New Year be without promises in great quantities, some big, several bold, a good number realistic yet somehow improbable, of rehabilitated self and a better you?  In fact, this is the time of year when jillions of hopefuls, plump, unorganized, or overdue, ready their oaths to improve mind, body and soul with abundant declarations of transformed and enhanced ways. 

There is a 2007 study by University of Bristol professor Richard Wisemen that showed 88% of those who made a New Year’s resolution bombed—this despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants had been confident of success (fleshy as they were) at the launch of said study.  At the root of those who did succeed, 22% of the men did so by applying a strategy of goal setting—a system where small measurable goals were set; such as, a pound a week or one fewer Twinkie per day.  This, set against what had previously been a strategy of resting comfortably in Wellington II Barcaloungers whilst beckoning someone to, “Bring me another Bud Light!”—the new system proved more efficacious, astonishingly. 

Of the woman who succeeded, 10% did so by utilizing a strategy of making their goals more public, thus receiving support from friends and family.  Women embracing this strategy enjoyed considerable success in reducing overall weight, improving blood pressure and lowering levels of bad cholesterol. In a separate study, this one pairing women with their respective mother-in-laws as special “New Year’s resolution weight-loss counselors”, the results were less encouraging—increased weight gain, blood pressure, and  higher levels of bad cholesterol were found to exist along with greater incidents of divorce, alcoholism and domestic violence—and the study, still in its early stages, was stopped. 

With results such as these, realizing ones goals by way of the much overcooked and disappointing New Year’s resolution, therefore, is especially unlikely.   Still, this New Year will find no shortage of aspirers churning them out.  Among the more popular resolutions year after year; taming the overhang and getting more fit.  With nearly two-thirds of U.S. citizens overweight and one-third obese, this laudable goal comes as no surprise.  With brave promises to self, many will focus on eating less (tubs of fried chicken, cartons of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, stacks of super-giant sized fries, casks of soda, and, at 470 calories, venti cups of Starbucks peppermint mochas) and healthier (apparently, a little broccoli won’t kill you, or so I’m told) in one sort or another. 

Others, aspiring to gain vigor, will, at great expense, join fitness centers (you actually have to go), hire personal trainers, and buy home-fitness equipment—my favorite, the vibrating-belt weight-loss machines of the fifties, if only it worked.  Even so, some people, opting to go low-tech and at-home, will purchase do-it-yourself videos to achieve their modest fitness objectives—good luck with that. 

Many folks, just as high-principled and well intentioned, will faithfully deliver pledges to: spend more time with family, work less, quit smoking, read at least one book (easy there…a whole book?), quit drinking (no-doubt childless), payoff credit cards, or simply “be less neurotic” (your family thanks you). 

A handful others will undertake to stop posting to their Facebook pages during in-progress events and actually, rather than virtually, experience the events first person.  While a small number of others, struggling with rudimentary protocols and everyday manners, will promise a half-hearted “try”, to at least once per day, discontinue texting and petting their iPhones long enough to look up, make eye contact, and say hello to the human being standing before them, especially when it’s their own child. All valiant goals to be sure—lest the pain of discipline is worse than the pain of regret.

Yet, I say, isn’t life hard enough? Why make life more punishing than it need be? As adults, and especially for those of us who are parents, are we not coping with enough stress and drama as it is? Craft your goals of improved self in consideration of realizing them more easily, making certain they’re within comfortable reach.  This way, you’re assured to remove entirely, any possible risk of regret, guilt, disappointment, and most importantly, the substantial effort required to achieve idealistic aims—leave that to the twenty-something crusaders and activists crowd, they have tons more oomph than we do.  What’s more, by setting realistic (read easy) targets and successively accomplishing them, you can be sure to renovate your ever dwindling self-esteem too—a true win-win for all. 

That said, this year I resolve to take in generous portions of super-giant sized fries and attendant Big Macs, drink numerous venti Starbucks peppermint mochas, read zero books, smoke extra-large malodorous cigars, begin, a great deal earlier in the day, appreciating Manhattans, and text and pet my phone all the day long, because kids get plenty of eye contact in school these days anyway, and life’s too short to be shackled to unworkable cul-de-sacs of self-transformation.  

Cue the music. Should old acquaintance be forgot…

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