My (Unmeasurable) New Year’s Resolutions

The time seems right for me to make some resolutions for 2014. Because I broke a few bones on December 1, the last month of 2013 was more about getting necessary things (wrapping Christmas presents, etc.) done at the last minute than about proactively ordering my household and life. Now that I’m feeling better and the holiday whirlwind is wrapping up, I’m ready to make some changes to improve my health and habits in 2014.

Conventional wisdom says that, when you set personal goals, you must make them measurable. Otherwise you’ll have no way to discern if you’re meeting the goal or not. I disagree. When I attach specific numbers to my goals, I usually end up giving up on the goals when I fail to meet the numbers. So this year, I’m deliberately leaving my New Year’s resolutions very general. For example, I’m setting a goal of writing every day, without putting a word count on it. If I set a word count, this is what will happen: A day will come when writing a set number of words will seem impossible. So I won’t write anything. But if my goal is simply to “write every day,” then on a day when I’m short on time or inspiration, I can still meet my goal by, say, writing the first paragraph of a new blog post.

My resolutions this year are a simple list of things I will do every day. If I get to the end of the day having done each of these things, even in some very small way, then I will have succeeded and will (I hope) be inspired to tackle the same list tomorrow.

These are my unmeasurable New Year’s resolutions.

Every day in 2014, I will:

- Pray: My prayers might involve using Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours prayer books, saying the Jesus prayer or Lord’s prayer, intercessions for specific people and situations, or a simple prayer of gratitude for my many blessings.

Write: I have hesitated to ever commit to writing something every day because I thought I had to have a minimum word count, and knew that the scenario above (“There’s no way I can make that word count today so I just won’t write anything…”) would happen far too often. I’m committing to writing something every day. Grocery lists and short, practical e-mails do not count. Outlines of future writing projects and substantive e-mails do.

- Exercise: Most days, I will fulfill this resolution by walking the dog or swimming laps. Undertaking a large grocery run, which involves lots of walking along with pushing and carrying heavy loads, counts. Yoga and exercise ball DVDs will suffice when the weather makes getting out of the house too difficult. Illness and broken bones serve as reasonable excuses for shirking this resolution, but I am hoping for little of the former and none of the latter in 2014.

- Eat fruits and vegetables. A strange thing has happened to me in recent years. I just don’t enjoy food the way I used to. As a result, I often eat very little for breakfast and lunch. Nothing much appeals. This resolution is simply a reminder that, when I’m not jazzed about eating breakfast or lunch, a clementine, apple, or salad almost always tastes good, and is almost always readily available.

- Drink tea. I have something of a Diet Coke habit. While I don’t plan to completely break that habit, I would like to drink more tea and less diet soda. My brief venture into naturopathy last year introduced me to the antioxidant and other nutritional benefits of various types of tea. Few things are more appealing in my chilly Connecticut house on a January (or February or March or even early April) day than sitting on the couch with my laptop, a cozy throw, and the dog snuggled up nearby, with a cup of hot tea in my hand and a good writing idea in my head. And in warmer months, I find that hot tea appeals more than my usual cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

How about you? Do you make resolutions? Why or why not? And how do you plan to measure success, if at all?

(And then there’s this, from my dear friend Rachel—A post that puts all of our resolutions and hopes and failures into true perspective.)

 

About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at http://ellenpainterdollar.com for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.

  • professorgerdes

    If you want to complete any of these resolutions, this article may help you achieve it: But, it also suggests you focus on one. Perhaps, in your case, draw near to God daily. http://bit.ly/1cjbIeX (this is not selling anything). Happy New Year, all. Only 8% actually achieve resolutions all year. We need all the help we can get. -DG

  • Jeannie

    Your resolutions make so much sense to me, Ellen (except for the tea thing: I hate tea). It’s so easy to get discouraged by numbers and measurements.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/thinplaces/ Amy Julia Becker

    I love this, and I am so with you on the Diet Coke… With that said, I’m going to count Epiphany as the beginning of my new year because I haven’t paused to consider resolutions, or not…

  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    I’m not a resolver, Ellen http://timfall.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/new-years-resolution-ive-given-up-running-on-pine-cones-2/ but I do like to take stock once in a while and see what needs changing. This time of year lends itself to that. I haven’t come up with anything as specific as your list, let alone anything measurable.

    Blessed New Year to you and the family,
    Tim


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