Friday, January 3, 2014

Avoid the failure trap

    With Christmas over, the focus has shifted off the war on Christmas. Thank heavens for Fox News analysts’ warnings that “Merry Christmas” was being replaced by “Happy holidays” or we might have missed it. But now, we need to keep an eye on the far more insidious threat, the “Happy new year” war.
    At the beginning of each year, there are many changes that seem important. Forty-five percent of Americans make specific new year’s resolutions. Before a few weeks have come and gone, most of us have been defeated by our overly optimistic proclamations or just plain sloth. The new year, it seems, engages in a war on us and does so quite successfully.
    The new year makes us make promises, and then later makes us admit to everyone, and to ourselves, that we didn’t lose the weight we resolved to lose or that the trips to the gym became far less frequent than we had promised. It turns out that we really do want all the food we’re served, which eliminates our resolve to wipe out obesity by controlling portions.
    Some of us try a higher road to defeat the new year’s responsibility by resolving to focus on others. In the new year, we promise, we will volunteer more, read more books, give to worthy causes. But soon enough, we don’t volunteer or read or contribute like we said we would and that “Happy new year” thing comes around to declare victory, again.
    Of course, no one should enter the new year in the hospital or in jail from drunk driving, but it’s small wonder that so many celebrate the new year in a state of inebriation. Let’s admit that, deep down, we know that all those new year’s resolutions are a failure trap.
    We fight back by pointing out the inherent contradictions in promising to both spend family time and time helping strangers, to save more and give more. We just blow through our resolutions and “Happy new year” trashes our egos again, winning its war on us.
    So maybe the sensible greeting should be just “Happy year.” Take out that “new” part because, most likely, our inaction will outperform our intentions. We will do our best, pretty much as we always do, and if that turns out to make the new year happier than the old, so be it. If the coming year falls short, then we can try again next year, without the guilt.
     Have a happy 2014, everyone!

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