On The Subject Of Time And Self And Cynicism: Or, How I View Resolutions

This is of course the time of the year when frowny-faced naysayers tell you your resolutions are stupid and why are you waiting till today to make them and keep them, as if your today must conform to their today, as if your decision to evolve or change or Do Something is somehow offensive to them. It’s the same cynical thing you hear at Valentine’s Day — “I don’t need a day to buy flowers for my wife,” they say, which is true, but of course they probably don’t buy flowers for their wives on any other day anyway.

People are resistant to the idea that we should change, that we can better ourselves, whether it’s on the first day of the year or the third or the 51st or the 345th. They will tell you your resolutions are stupid, but of course they’ll continue on making no changes for themselves and wearing their cynicism like an ugly hat proudly displayed.

Yes, of course, January 1st is an artificial construct, an imaginary knife-slash in time. But it’s your day just as it is theirs. If you want to use this day to make a change, do so. The cynicism of others needn’t be a big dead bird hanging around your neck, too.

Go forth. Change if you want. Try if you must. High-five your own optimistic instincts.

Even in failure we learn.


  • And, to add: January 1st is a date well-placed for introspection. It is winter. We hide inside, warmed as can be — womb-like, in a way. And we’re in the middle of holidays, unburdened by work, on the cusp of “getting back to it,” as it were. It’s a damn fine time for reflection and resolution, were you to ask me. Evolution and change is available to us any day, but if the first day of the year provides is with an open door and an easy reason to Get Busy Doing Stuff, then what’s so bad about that?

    • That’s a great point on New Year falling when it does in terms of the weather, especially living in Scotland where it’s cold as hell at the best of times. At this time of year there’s nowhere to be but inside and nothing to do but think. Added to that, December 31st is one of those weird nights when everyone else is drunk, too, so when better to commit to challenges that will make you grow?

      New Year is the perfect storm. Those frowny-faced naysayer fucks you’re talking about can shelter under each other’s mediocrity all they want as long as they stay the hell out of our way while we ride the hurricane.

      I’m writing 500,000 publishable words this year and that seems so much more concrete to me than saying “I’m writing 500,000 publishable words in the next 12 months.” The increasing cynicism over resolutions usually comes from people who are bitter about having failed in the past. I’ve failed before and so has everyone else here. The key is understanding why then stacking the deck in your favour this time out. Create tangible, potent goals and make your environment conducive to their achievement.

      I just found this blog by mistake and the positivity in the content and comments is infectious. It seems different from the campfire and daisy-chain positivity of other places, too; more legit. Happy New Year everyone.


    • ‘Course, that’s only true (the winter thing) for half the world… It’s beach time for those of us down here!

  • My New Years Resolutions. Not sure if i’m being serious or whether i did them for giggles;

    1, Care less.
    2, Write more.
    3, Read more.
    4, Find new, better job. By which i mean one that allows me more time to write.
    5, Drink a little more.
    6, Wank a little less.
    7, Enjoy life.
    8, Enjoy you guys more.
    9, Get a book finished.
    10, Get a book published.
    11, Repeat.

  • I make efforts at change — and fail — year-round.
    I hug the husband and take him to dinner, year-round. (My biggest problem with V-day is that the same flowers you speak of are suddenly worth five times their Feb. 15th value, that restaurants are packed and that it becomes a contest for “stuff” among shallow people with things to prove.)
    I agree that this time is great for introspection. I just don’t like the idea that I have to wait for a magic day to start running or eat better or write a novel. If I have to wait, I’ll find a way to avoid it forever.

    • “I agree that this time is great for introspection. I just don’t like the idea that I have to wait for a magic day to start running or eat better or write a novel. If I have to wait, I’ll find a way to avoid it forever.”

      It’s not about having to wait. You don’t have to wait. But if today is the day someone says, “I think I’m going to lose weight / write more / drink more beer / be nicer to my grandmother,” hey, fuck it, better today than not at all. And the consumerism of Valentine’s Day is a whole other thing: but the sentiment of doing something nice for a loved one on that day somehow gets poo-poo’ed by the cynics. Listen, every holiday is a day spent doing something we could be doing every other day of the year. I can eat turkey every day; I don’t need to wait till Thanksgiving. I can buy somebody something nice; I don’t have to wait till their birthday. But that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace the spirit of the day — of each day, really — and do something nice for others and for ourselves.

      • I get that. I just think I need to live more in the day instead of doing the waiting.
        I usually mail gifts after Xmas because I like to mail cookies and they get there faster after the big day. I bought something for a friend months ago, but hung onto it until Christmas because that’s what people do. I could have mailed it to her then. She could have enjoyed it for months. Then, the day before Christmas, she was in a car accident. She was fine, but totaled the car. Made me think, though. Why the hell was I saving her gift? Why not send it to her when I thought of her instead of letting it collect dust? Viva la Carpe some crap.
        I’m not poo-pooing the “nice.” I do poo-poo the dictating of what nice is, that place where commercialism meets culture. If my coworker wants flowers, fine. I don’t. Unless they’re in a pot with dirt. I’m happy the husband knows that. And my coworker can tell me how much he doesn’t understand women until quitting time if she wants.
        Same with Xmas. I gave some friends homemade candles as gifts. They smell great, look pretty, all that. A couple of their cousins — hugely shopping-addicted, mind you — also gave them candles but from a fancy store. They turned it into a contest over which would look better with the decor, which would make the receivers happier, which smelled best. Bah, whatever happened to the thought counting?

        • That’s precisely it, I think — the thought here is what matters. If we are to assume that thoughts have power (when translated into action), then hey, let’s celebrate the thought instead of criticizing the timing.

          But yeah — the commercialism is a whole other argument and problem, and thankfully not one really tied to New Year’s resolutions. Which is all the more reason to just let folks have their resolutions: who the fuck does it hurt?

          — c.

          • People can have all the resolutions they want. I just hope they realize that it’s a life change they’re after, not a magic trick.
            You can fail and try again. Now. You don’t have to wait until next year. You ate a cheesecake? Was it good? Yeah. Next time, stick to a slice or a bite. You only ran a mile? Okay. Perfect. Next time, try 1.2. You only wrote 500 words today? Fantastic. Don’t give up. Write 600 tomorrow. And if you only write 25 or 600 or 3, still don’t give up. Write 26 or 650 or 10 the next day. Wanna go vegan? Start by cutting out beef, then pork, then poultry, then milk… Don’t jump off the cliff all at once and expect to land perfectly. Don’t expect to run a marathon tomorrow unless you spent the last several months training. Don’t expect to be a new person because the year is new. Start small, build steadily, and allow yourself setbacks. Be a new you without beating up the old you in an alley. (Unless he needs it.)
            I think now we’re smoking the same stuff.
            Happy New Year, Chuck (and family).

  • I think you’re right.

    It wasn’t necessarily the New Year or everyone else’s resolutions that brought about the idea of making myself better. It was going through an entire crappy year and it looking to blossom in 2013 already. The thing I decided is if I’m going to face a better future, I might as well be a better person with better habits

    Anyone against that is simply a cynical emotionless bag of meat with bones.

  • Just found you this morning when looking up the word count for NaNoWriMo. I was looking because I decided to start, today, my own personal NaNoWriYear and wanted a reference point.

    And here’s where the magic lies with January 1st. You feel just a little bit more motivation than usual. And oftentimes, that little bit extra can be really crucial. By all means, don’t wait to start your new thing on New Year’s. But, if it gives you that extra little push, and you wake up with the urge to do the thing, then do it.

  • Thank you, I needed to read this today! 🙂

    I also read on another blog (in Swedish) something like – “I might not be able to keep my new years resolution, but that´s not going to stop me from making one!” Which kind of reminds me of a saying we have here, I think you say the same in English – if you aim for the stars, maybe you rech the rooftops. And the rooftops ain´t that bad!

    And still, sometimes, some people DO reach the stars as well… 🙂

    Happy New Year!

  • I made this exactly same argument last night, although I was slightly less than sober. My friends were laughing about the arbitrary nature of celebrating the first day of the year just because some guy a long time ago said, “this is when we’ll say the year starts, and here’s where it ends.”

    Using some people’s logic, there would be no reason to celebrate anything on any day. “Yeah, Valentine’s Day is nice, but I buy my wife things when I want to…not when the MAN tells me to.” “Yeah, Christmas is nice and all, but I’ll show compassion to my fellow man when FEEL like it, not when SOCIETY dictates.”

    I think that New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are not intended to be days that we wait around for. The idea, if you’re doing it right, is to take stock in who you are, look at where you need to improve yourself–because everybody most assuredly does–and then work to do so. New Year’s Eve/Day just serves as a convenient reminder. “Ding. Level up. 2013. How are my stats? Okay, I did pretty good with Charisma, but I may want to add some points to Dex this year.” Birthdays, at least for me, function in much the same way. As does my marriage anniversary.

  • I’m going to put here what I already posted as my “quote” for the day, because it’s so appropriate as a response (think of it as a huge choir singing “Amen!”) to what you wrote and posted today:

    “When the voice and the vision on the inside become more profound and more clear and loud than the opinions on the outside, you’ve mastered your life.” ~ Dr. John DeMartini, DC, BSC, Philosopher

    I am the master of my life. I’m not your puppet.

    Happiness to all the penmonkeys out there for the best year yet.

    • And I am the captain of my soul!

      I cancelled Christmas this year because, damn it, it was my birthday and has always been my birthday. I was born in Bethlehem, too! I was having no competitions this year. I rented a vaulted cellar in an old castle, invited everyone and had lots of food and lots and lots of German beer and told them all there would be no presents, just a big party. And we have friends who had lost parents, or who were completely alone this year and were really grateful that there was somewhere to go on Christmas Day.

      This year will be better than last year, just wait!

  • Thanks for this. Naysayers suck. Best to edit them from our lives. I have a resolution, to finish this current draft, not the beer. It’s thanks to your blog that I started writing again.

  • Aye, the knife has been slashed, and may this next trip around the sun bring us all everything we want and nothing we don’t. That said, I think failure teaches us more than success, if we pay attention. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Or in my case, upwards of 800 by now 😉

  • Douglas Adams wrote that you have to throw yourself at the ground and miss if you want to learn to fly…my problem is with accuracy. I haven’t missed yet and have the bruises to show for it. What I need is a proper distraction.

  • This is the year I use every spare hour to getting paid. This quest will cut into my writing time, but if I get my money straight, I’ll be able to afford more workshops and writing cons. The problems I have only money will solve. By the close of this year, a majority of my debt will be repaid and I’ll be in better fiscal shape. Anyone looking for web design work, my shoppe is open.

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