Joseph Cramer, M.D.: Should New Year's resolutions be considered a crime?
Personally, I think that New Year’s resolutions should be abolished. At a minimum, they should be outlawed.
Of course, this would necessitate a NYR squad in every police force, but only until Feb. 19. By then, most of the procrastinators have sent their last Christmas cards. If they did happen to draw up a list of goals, they would not qualify as New Year's resolutions.
Perhaps before I wish the lock-up of most of the civilized world, let me explain my objections to NYRs. No one keeps them. Or more appropriately, no one that I see in the mirror keeps them. That is why it is a crime. It is like breaking the same law over and over again.
Imagine that every day you get a speeding ticket at the same spot at the same time, by the same cop, at the same miles per hour. Apparently, you can’t seem to alter your accelerated driving habits.
While speed limits aren't likely going anywhere, we might be be able to do away with personal failures if there were no NYRs.
I am not against self-improvement. I say I will do better all the time. I, like many, have the three-page, double-sided, single-spaced in small font list of shortcomings. Those around me have their own five-page executive version for me. However, by that time the double-sided single-spaced in small font hits five pages, there is nothing short about them.
Here is a sampling of the problem: lose weight; exercise daily; be organized and have a clean desk; remember names; eat more vegetables and fewer carbs; be on time; do what your spouse says before they say it or even think it; floss; wash your hands; speak softly; follow through; and answer emails.
So eliminating NYRs would be like "no blood, no foul" in basketball. In that sense, the list would be more honest: don’t gain too much weight to fit into your pants; walk from your car to the elevator without spilling your coffee or tripping; be organized and clean your desk by stacking files and clippings on the floor; wave but don’t say a thing in case you get the name wrong; order veggies at a restaurant and move them around the plate; don’t be more than 10 minutes late; listen once in a while to your spouse; look up occasionally during commercials to see if your spouse is still speaking; buy floss; at least get your hands wet; don’t swear too much out loud; don’t take assignments; and don’t use the Internet.
This sort of NYR would be legit. It becomes a win-win. There is a list and, for the most part, it could be checked off. The pressure to succeed would not become toxic. The exhilaration of completing a goal would be palpable. You could show your achievements to any member of the NYR SWAT team and be proud of being a law-abiding citizen.
So as you take the few minutes to consider your New Year's resolutions, stop. Take a deep breath until the urge washes over you. Feel the wonder of it all.
You now can sleep in peace knowing you have one less three-page, double-sided, single-spaced in small font list to worry about.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician, fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing physician for 30 years and a hospitalist at Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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