Kirsten Mustain

This is the season for revelry, which may be neatly rationalized away with the promise of resolutions soon to come.

It seems the question on everybody’s tongue this time of year is, “What are your resolutions going to be?”

I generally tell people that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, which is a true enough statement.

But that doesn’t mean I never resolve to do anything.

Resolution is a flagstone on the path to achievement, but it is only the first step.

New Year’s resolutions, for the most part, seem to be short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful. By Valentine’s Day they have generally fallen by the wayside to be forgotten until next New Year’s when people will once again pick them up and carry them for another couple of weeks and so the pattern continues . . .

When mentioning New Year’s resolutions many people adopt an ironic smile, as if it is a foregone conclusion that they will be back to the same old bad habits within the week.

Are New Year’s resolutions an exercise in futility, then? Why?

I don’t think the problem is that people are hopeless and unable to change.

But the idea of a simple resolution made once at the beginning of the New Year is, perhaps, not a realistic one.

To make a resolution covering an entire year at once seems rather daunting. It is like standing at the bottom of a mountain and looking at the tiptop, way high above, and hoping to make it in one step. After a couple of steps that only bring you one step closer, you are likely to abandon the exercise as hopeless.

Whereas, if you simply look at the part of the mountain that is in front of you, put your best foot forward and begin walking, eventually you will reach the top.

To work, I think a resolution must be made daily – preferably in the early morning hours – and only for one day at a time.

A resolution like, “Today I will not eat any candy,” is much easier to adhere to than a resolution like, “I will never eat anything fattening again as long as I live.”

Bad habits carry a lot of momentum. The longer they have been practiced, the more momentum they have.

Stopping the momentum can be a tricky thing. Imagine riding a bicycle down a hill at a very high speed. If you suddenly slam on the brakes you are likely to flip yourself over the handlebars.

(This seems to have a lot of entertainment value for bystanders, but I don’t recommend it – it hurts.)

Instead, you apply the brakes slowly, in increments. Once you have slowed to a slower speed it is not so difficult to stop completely.

This New Year as I wake up to the sound of gunfire at midnight and remember I am deep in the wilds of my home state, I will pray that everyone (including myself) makes resolutions they can live with – resolutions that are do-able.

Good luck and Happy New Year!