Why bother with resolutions? Because failure inspires

Writing resolutions every year can become a tradition for families.

Story highlights

  • Author's family started coming up with resolutions at dinner over the holidays 10 years ago
  • Wife saved the lists, now they look over their resolutions with the perspective of a decade
  • Some of the resolutions are recurring, while others fade with time
So, why bother with New Year's resolutions? Is there a point to making the same resolutions every year? Lose weight, organize finances, spend more time with the family, blah blah blah.
It's like an annual empty promise, so why waste your time?
Well, thanks to my wife, I just stumbled on a really good reason.
Ten years ago, my family started coming up with our resolutions at the dinner table over the holidays.
It was fun, we laughed and discussed and compared, then wrote our resolutions down and posted them on the fridge.
My wife, the brains behind most things in our family, saved those slips of paper, and now we look over our resolutions with the perspective of a decade.
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Reading back on what I wrote over the years, there are lots of resolutions I DID keep. Writing them down, sometimes again and again over many years, was a big help.
I resolved annually for seven years (2002 through 2009) to master some specific, painfully complicated computer skills. Thanks to our New Year's ritual and its systematic self-nagging, today I'm professionally certified in those skills. Done.
Resolutions involving something physical don't take seven years as long as they are realistic. I decided 2008 should be the year to learn to lap swim, and I did. Just like the 2003 resolution to run a half-marathon and 2007 to renovate my daughter's bedroom. Done and done.
Resolutions to avoid are ones that depend on others, like 2005's "Learn to play duets with a cellist." The cellist never showed up.
Or that are too subjective, as in 2007's "Reduce sugar and caffeine intake." Huh?
But the failures turn out to be the best lessons.
In 2005 I started making resolutions about my eating habits. "Five servings of veggies a day" lasted a few months, but it helped me understand how to track what I eat, and 2010's "Think about what I want to eat before I look at the menu" became a new and ingrained habit.
With the 20/20 of hindsight, the piles of un-met goals in my hobby of playing music are all the same mistake: They are all over-ambitious. Amateur musicians take note: You'll feel a lot more fulfilled if you are frank about your practice time limits.
There is an oddball bit player who shows up when it's time to write resolutions then disappears for a year until it is resolution time again. The home repairs I need to do only bother me slightly, but consistently. Good reason to keep them in focus.
You may not be surprised that my key resolutions for 2012 are similar to what they've been for the past decade. Near the top of the list, yup, is more time with my family, better-organized finances and losing a few pounds.
But the record shows that if I keep at them, keep working out how and why I keep flopping at the same things, perhaps 2012 will be a successful year.