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Rant on Resolutions

I wrote a perfectly good eHow article on How to Make Sensible New Year's Resolutions that was written for a general audience participating in the custom. I went ahead and mentioned the traditional resolutions people make and break -- lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, spend less, etc.

Because that article was a general audience article I didn't really cut loose in it with my opinion on the Annual Puritanical Guilt Trip.

The idea of setting a goal at the top of the year -- yes, that's a good one. Makes sense to think about long term goals at some point in the year and New Year's is a beginning. Here is my 2009 resolution. Submit at least one pro novel for publication.

Now I could actually attain it within the first week and the flush of intensity about goal setting, just mail out The Hunt and have no pressure for the rest of the year, which might be the stress-free way of dealing with it anyway. There's nothing says your resolution can't be something you could accomplish in one day or one week.

But today I'm here to rant.

Because the way this annual goal-setting is taken is always the Giant Annual Guilt Trip. Time to sit ack, tell yourself "I'm not good enough" and then enumerate the many ways you're not up to snuff, pick on yourself miserably for a few days and then ruin the start of the year Trying for Self Improvement.

That is the mainstream culture New Year's Resolution. Shortly followed by the ritual breaking of all these promises to self and hahaha, everyone screws up on them, no reason to carry on with any goals you set because you can never do them anyway.

What a LOSER attitude. I mean it. Why do people need to punish themselves ritually every year at the start of the year only to reinforce traditional hypocrisy and convince themselves yet again that they lack willpower and lack grit and lack determination to carry out goals they set?

When most of the traditional goals may not be your goals for yourself in the first place.

What would happen to Society if people started making resolutions like:

In 2009, I'm going to quit picking on myself and just enjoy my life.

In 2009, I'm going to make time for my (poetry, art, reading books I like, playing video games, doing the things that I really enjoy) and accept myself for who I am.

Or how about this one:

Every time I succeed at something hard I'm trying to accomplish, I'm going to reward myself in some small way that doesn't sabotage my goal.

IE, if you actually have a desire to lose weight that does not rest on other people picking on you to do so, or the media's constant nagging on the subject, or anything else that involves social pressure -- then rewarding yourself for new healthy eating habits with art supplies or scrapbooking paper or drill bits or whatever you fancy for an activity that doesn't involve eating sweets is the resolution.

And the weight loss itself isn't the New Years resolution. Forming the healthy habit of rewarding yourself is the resolution. The weight loss happens concurrently because you actually enjoy whatever it is you're doing when you're bored to substitute for boredom-eating or frustration-eating.

New Years should not be about "I'm not good enough and I need to Improve Myself."

You're just fine.

You're who you are inside it all. Improving your life ought to actually make it happier and more pleasant.

I exempt one group of self-improvers from this of course. Anyone who has put "Stop nagging," or "Try to nag people less often" -- yay for you, that's a great one. But here is something to add to it -- please, for the sake of your sanity and everyone around you, add to it "I will quit picking on myself too." Because I've never known any nagging critic who wasn't also constantly picking on him or herself and mercilessly driving to meet arbitrary goals, usually those contradictory ones set by television ads anyway.

And don't set yourself up for failure by phrasing your goals so that success is contingent on someone else doing something. I did not make my 2009 resolution Sell a pro novel even though that's clearly what I want. Because I could send it in to twenty publishers and not one of them want it, keep sending them once a week and not one of them sell, bust my buns achieving it and really accomplish great things in the process and fail because no editor happened to both want my novel and have the money to buy it during 2009.

Wouldn't it be ironic if I submitted a pro novel in 2009, thought of myself as a failure at my goal because I didn't get an acceptance on it and then got an acceptance in March of 2010 because the editor who liked it waited till he had a slot for it in the lineup and the money to purchase another one? Come on, that'd be downright silly! I'm selling something at a time when no one has the money to buy anything.

My goal is for me to do something. And that is get them out the door so I have a chance of winning the Literary Lottery.

So let's change the custom. Let's end the Great Puritanical Guilt Trip and focus instead on goals that are real, attainable within your own effort, and goals you really want and think are worth the trouble of getting.

If you put "Lose weight" on your list because every time you watch television some athlete with an extreme mesomorph or ectomorph build and a life passion of perfecting physical sculpturing or an anorexic model is held up as better than you -- when you're an endomorph with some Polish extraction who's only ever going to look like a short stocky person adapted to a harsh climate, then you'll just break your heart on it repeatedly. Set goals that are real and that you actually want.

You, yourself.

Not society says you should, not the TV ads tell you that you should, not the things the people around you suggest you should do. Not just go along with the herd and make the same list as everyone else. The crowd has no brains. Its IQ gets divided by the number of members and if that's over a thousand you may be looking at individual IQ running lower than the average termite.

"I want to find myself" is a pretty natural goal for anyone who's watching the infrastructure of "mainstream society" get shaken by reality. Being a mindless materialistic Consumer isn't real bright right now even if you're rich. Finding yourself is an internal process, it's looking at yourself and your environment -- especially your social environment -- and taking stock, judging it critically but not harshly.

Critique your life positively, not viciously.

Don't compare yourself to other people. Don't assume "everyone" is doing the same thing you are. That's a good way to invite panic attacks and anxiety into your life -- the natural instinct of any herd is to stampede on anything resembling a warning.

It's time to ask whether you like your occupation or whether you can build a plan toward doing something you love doing and would do for free. It's time to ask whether you're wasting your free time in a lot of pointless arguing, when what you may need is a day's peace and a chance to do something you wanted to do that you keep putting off because of petty interruptions and social obligations. It's a chance to reassess your acquaintances -- look at your close friends too -- ask yourself whether you really enjoy their company and why, ask yourself why you do the things you do.

If you loathe calisthenics, maybe it's a good time to ask whether doing something else that's physical would be more fun. You might actually prefer games to calisthenics. Some people do. You might prefer dance to either. Some people do. Going dancing with a group of interested friends is something that could be free or cheap if you do it in a park. And lo, this too would serve the purpose of improving health and giving you better wind and strength and stamina -- without gruelling hours of boring repetitive motion.

Or maybe you do like exercise (some people do) but you don't stick to the plan because someone else in your immediate family and housemates interrupts and sabotages it -- because your doing it means they ought to be doing it and what's fun for you is misery for them. Just taking some time by yourself to do your thing of lifting weights and not expecting them to join in could ease that situation and give you time to do the bodybuilding you wanted to.

I'm not saying that losing weight or working out or whatever aren't real goals. That everyone who tries these things fails at them because they don't really want to do them. I'm saying, look within yourself and ask what you really think of it and whether it matters enough to you to go through the trouble of doing it. Because these things aren't easy. They can be satisfying to people who put in the work to make them real, but if you keep making the same resolution every year and breaking it ritually, that's just an annual self punishment that grinds down morale year after year.

Think about what you really want.

Then think about the most pleasant way to achieve that goal. No, I am not kidding. Think about what would make you happy on the journey, because the journey is what life is anyway. The moment of getting the goal is a peak moment but goddess, there are so many other peaks along the way and some pretty merry plateaus, and even the rough parts of the trip turn into exciting stories you can tell your grandkids and blog readers.

I'm going to milk those shelter years for all they're worth for the rest of my life, come on, surviving that and coming out sane and weird and a writer is an achievement in itself.

Don't set goals out of fear.

Set goals out of hope.

One of the coolest things in my life was that losing a job led to my starting what still ranks as the best day job I ever had -- street artist. I could already draw and was doing pretty good with it as a self-sustaining hobby while I was working, but after getting fired a mere month after an annoying job hunt and having to start over, I said "I'm not unemployed, I'm self employed."

I hauled my portfolio out and showed it to shops and galleries all over the French Quarter and got a $200 commission -- because I went out and took the risk of rejection and did some sales. A lot of people did not have the money to buy my art that day. But one of the ones who liked it did and saw a profitable investment, paid me a fair price and got my good work.

If you're currently unemployed -- then you are in that boat.

I can tell you this -- it takes no more work to get the occupation you always wanted than it does to get A Job, Any Job. Don't be fooled by the Depression attitude of "accept any work that's offered" because you can wind up in a Catch-22 of being paid so much less for your labor that you don't have the time to seek sustainable income. It's an emergency move to accept any work that's offered.

Goal setting is not about "get past this crisis."

Goal setting is about looking past the crisis to things that you can do to make your life happier. That is the best reason for it there is -- so when you make your list of goals, try to make it the list of your goals.

They'll be a lot easier to reach if they're the ones you actually want.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
Proud member of the Oil Pastel Society
Interesting art blog: Patrick's Art Blog focused on realism!
New Topical Blog: www.robs-art-supply-reviews.blogspot.com for all the cool art stuff that isn't oil pastels!

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
eternalism
Dec. 31st, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
Every time I succeed at something hard I'm trying to accomplish, I'm going to reward myself in some small way that doesn't sabotage my goal.

I truly love this goal! In reviewing how my viewpoints and such have changed over the past year, I think it's one that more people ought to consider taking to heart. Self-denial and sacrifice are all well and good to a point, but I find I'm seeing all too many people fall into that loop of, "If I deprive myself of everything fun, I'll be a better person for it." And then because they find that's actually a crappy way to spend their lives, they overcompensate by acquiring too much, sometimes without the real means to do so, under the excuse of, "Well I failed at denying myself this, so I'll just succeed at not denying myself everything I want."

Moderation. One doesn't have to be at extreme ends of the spectrum to be happy.

I admit that I do want to lose weight in the new year, and I have a tentative goal in mind, but I don't think I'm going to beat myself up hugely if I don't get there. If I make any improvement at all, it'll be better than my last attempts at losing weight. :p And I do it not for social validation, but because I know that my weight is affecting my health in some ways and suspect it's affecting it in ways I haven't even considered yet. I'm tired of being unhealthy, so I'm going to take steps to change that.

And even the thought of taking steps to change it, plus what I've already done, makes me feel really good inside. I think that's how I know it's a doable goal. :)

I've avoided making resolutions for a few years because it's been my experience that I always fail at them, and then feel like I myself have become a failure, useless and worthless, and I get discouraged that I'm ever going to get anywhere I really want to be. With helps from you and a few others, I've gathered some good advice on what realistic goals are, and to examine why I'm doing what I'm doing. Is it really what I want to do? Why? Will it make me happier?

I've noticed lately that my attitude toward things has shifted in such a way that now when I feel down and unhappy about my job, for example, I no longer feel so trapped and depressed, but instead get a renewed determination to push toward a work-from-home small business that can sustain me. I never used to be like that.I'd feel depressed about my job and then come home and eat for comfort and then dread stepping out the front door for my shift the next day. My job right now, fun though it can be (it's one of the better jobs I've had, that's for certain) is being viewed as a stepping stone to get me somewhere else in life. It's a way to bring in money to pay the bills and that can be saved so that I can create a bit of a safety net for when I take the plunge and start that home business. I no longer feel trapped.

And damn, does that ever feel good! :D
robertsloan2
Dec. 31st, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
I am so glad it validated something you're already doing. It sounds like your real goal in losing weight is internal, and if it's going to make you happier -- go for it and be happy with every single step on the way. Including other measurements such as feeling better or being stronger or clothes fitting differently, if the things you do don't result in numeric measurements on the scale. If your body mass shifts to muscle you can wind up being leaner and weighing more.

I'm not saying don't use the scale, but keep in mind that more activity burns it off but may not show on the scale -- so check by way of weight and also by measuring and clothes-fitting and general how you feel too.

Also, there's Kitten's nutrition/herbalist point of view on eating healthier -- it's more sustainable to add a new healthier food gradually, take it in small quantity first and then gradually increase the amount and how often rather than to wham go from a lousy diet to a good one. Doing the usual dieting thing of changing everything you eat all at once gives two solid months of extreme digestive upset, which is where a lot of diet plans founder. Introduce the new habits gradually and that's sustainable.

It also avoids teaching your body to expect periodic starvation, which trains it to store any calorie that comes in as fat. If you only gradually shift your food over to healthier foods and increase activity the body will respond by burning up the fat. Good luck on it.

It also sounds like you're dealing with comfort eating as a substitute for other needs. It helps to satisfy the other needs and to identify them -- and if it's something emotional like boredom or loneliness or frustration, find other comforts. I know art supplies shifted into that role for me and then I started making good use of them, so I get more pleasure out of the art supplies than I did out of the junk foods.

Kitten took up knitting when she quit smoking and so far she's really sticking to the quit-smoking thing. She was ready -- but not till she had a substitute habit, something to do with her hands was the big thing for her.

Thanks for a short clear description of the bitter cycle of annual beating-yourself-up. I think people do it because of that all-or-nothing finish -- if you fail at the impossible weight of goals then you can chuck it all out and not do anything for yourself.

Long ago though, I gave up on the idea of self denial and sacrificing any joys in life. Trading them off for other pleasures is the only thing that makes sense to me. Giving things up does not improve my life one jot. It only diminishes it, brings me no moral loftiness because I don't believe in the principle of pointless sacrifice.

It is meaningful to make sacrifices for other people if it's done without resentment, it's a real gift.

It's meaningful to sacrifice other things to achieve a goal. I'm putting together this month's art supply order and passed up an insane bargain on a set of soft pastels I don't need in favor of some other supplies that I do need very much to do my site and do it justice -- two more cheap brands to review and a liter of that useful Colourfix primer that turns any surface I paint on with them into good sanded pastel surface.

eternalism
Jan. 1st, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
*nodnod* I've found that after not eating things for a while and then trying again, my stomach rebels and doesn't leave me feel very happy. :/ You're right, it's best to add things in slowly.

I'm definitely taking a "small steps" approach to weight loss and better nutrition. I've discovered that part of my problem is that in addition to not having the best diet, I also don't eat nearly enough to get me through the day properly, which makes my body hold on to every little thing it can. Which partially explains why I've had such trouble losing weight. Weirdly, eating more as well as eating better will help me shed pounds.

It's just harder to eat more than I first thought it would be.

I used to eat for comfort a lot. Bad day? Time for candy. Too fat? Let's get a chocolate bar. I've found things that make me comfortable now, especially knitting and other crafts. I'm hoping they'll help out.

I'm also going to make the attempt to start chewing gum when I feel that food = comfort feeling come on. It'll keep my mouth busy, give me flavour, and it's apparently been established in studies that gum chewers have an easier time losing weight and keeping it off.
robertsloan2
Jan. 1st, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
Absolutely right. Partial starvation and intermittent starvation sets the body to "retain fat" while eating better and steadily but getting active and burning it up resets for "use it immediately."

Also, Kitten has talked about something that affects metabolism a lot and the cholesterol thing. She found a site for Cholesterol Skeptics which was very sound science, good studies that showed the unsaturated fats in the vegetable oils in margarine and stuff combined with refined flour and refined sugars are what really causes the high blood pressure and heart trouble of cholesterol.

Basically the body needs animal fats, but also needs activity and protein. Lean meats aren't as good for you as the health police would say -- but the fattier meats and butter and bacon and eggs should not be eaten WITH the refined sugars and refined white flours and stuff that's been broken down too far.

That's the stuff that goes directly to fat. Butter and bacon go to energy if you're active and physically doing a lot. Since you are actually farming and taking care of large animals and doing all that, you may want to shift to more whole grains and eggs and butter. Good news for that stuff really.

Hmm. Gum chewing may serve the emotional craving very well. It's a good substitute activity and it is a treat. Knitting and making things for yourself is too. Don't always do projects for others, make some things that are just for you and just to your taste so that you're looking forward to it for a reward.

Also art supplies may be a good reward given you enjoy them that much. On the sort of basis that I do the pratchett thing -- you can get an art treat when you save money and pick up a few more colors in Prismas or something. Proportional.
robertsloan2
Jan. 1st, 2009 03:19 am (UTC)
Incidentally in February I am testing a couple of dirt cheap brands available online that may be good enough to sell art with. Also starting May I am going to put some lightfastness tests up for everything to try to determine which colors in the cheap ones are safe and reasonably durable.

Portfolio Watersoluble Oil Pastels claim lightfastness and are at least good student grade, they are wonderful in texture and only have 24 colors but are the closest to Senneliers in texture among cheap ones -- very soft and creamy.
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