Planning to fail – Doomed resolutions from the past

Happy New Year - What shall I resolve?Yesterday I started a short series on goal setting, planning, and resolutions.

I gave you the whole long winded reason I didn’t post classic New Year’s resolutions on my blog, and I mentioned that I had some personal experience with failure when it comes to resolutions.

(ahem)  I doubt I’m alone.

I’ve spent some time thinking about past resolutions and how those turned out.  I think you’ll understand why I don’t bother any longer.

See if these resolutions sound familiar.

1.  I resolve to get fit and exercise.  

I make this one almost every year.  The other years I resolve to “be realistic” about my schedule and expectations instead.  But the most spectacular failure happened when I was 24.

I was young, single, and stupid.  There’s no other way to explain it.  I signed up for a gym membership to help me with my resolve to get fit and lose a few pounds.  There were two problems.  First, the gym was of the “meat market” variety.  The kind where the women’s thigh machines are placed directly opposite from the men’s incline sit-up board (giving both genders equal opportunity to gawk at inseams).  Secondly, I signed a two year contract without reading it.

So… when I went to cancel my membership because I objected to men staring at me from every angle, they laughed at me.  They laughed because they were apparently well known for being a meat market (and proud of it) and failed to understand my objection.  People apparently paid EXTRA to be there because of the views.  Secondly, they laughed because I’d signed a contract.  I had to pay whether I went there or not.   Yuck.  Double Yuck.  Credit-ruining-I-need-a-shower yuck.

2.  I resolve to eat better.

Yep.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown all the cheetos and Velveeta out of my house in early January.  It’s equaled only by how many times I’ve poured out diet soda.

Or maybe by how many times I’ve gone crawling to the store (or a drive through) in search of junk food because there was none in the house.

3.  I resolve to live on a budget.

Spend less, get out of debt, save money, budget… they’re all variations on a theme.  Basically, I want to spend my money wisely and have something to show for it.

Great goal.  Hard to do.

The first time I made a budget, I forgot to include money for toilet paper or lightbulbs.  I needed both by the end of the first week.  It was a l-o-n-g time until payday.  I had two functional light bulbs that I moved from room to room in my tiny apartment.  (I also “borrowed” some toilet paper from work.  eek!)

My husband likes to make this goal for me.  It’s alternate version is for him to request that I stop spending so much money at Target.   He doesn’t seem to understand that’s where I purchase toilet paper and other essential items.

4.  I resolve to be more cultured by…

Reading books, going to the theatre, traveling the world, trying new foods… the list is endless.

The first time I made this resolution, I started trying to read War and Peace.

The next time, I tried to develop an appreciation for modern art.

After that, I tried (unsuccessfully) to learn a foreign language, learn to tat, take up yoga, learn the history of delft china patterns, and become an expert on antique wooden bowls.   I tried (with some success) to learn new vocabulary words, increase my brain power, and cut down on garbage television in favor of more educational shows.

Quit laughing.  Remember I tried to hand-engrave Christmas menus one year?  Clearly I have a pretentious streak.  I’m a danger to myself when I get that way.  (and probably quite unpleasant to be around.)

5.  I will have a better spiritual life by…

Daily bible reading, quiet time, bible study, meditation, doing good deeds, lighting more candles, eating less pork, taking a vow of chastity / poverty / sobriety… I think I’ve tried them all.  I’ve tried some others that I’d rather not list.

Honestly, none of them worked.

Bible reading and prayer are great things when I remember that they are a form of communication in the context of a relationship with God.  They work.

Bible reading and prayer don’t work nearly as well when I put them on a checklist.  As daily to-do items, they run the risk of being as effective as “be spontaneous”  or “do something unexpected.”

Ultimately, what improves my spiritual life is do improve my ongoing relationship with God.  Anything else is just window dressing.

(i feel compelled to point out the regularly attending a church i love and spending time in a small group of like-minded adults helps immensely.)

6.  I will be happier.

Don’t laugh. I’ve resolved to not be depressed.  I’ve resolved to have more friends.  I’ve resolved to do any number of things that I thought would make me happy.

My favorite?  Resolving to find five real friends in five months.

Ha.  Haha.  Hahahahahaha…..  I crack myself up.

I actually went and tried to buy a book on how to find friends.  There aren’t many books on the subject, and none of them met my needs.  I wanted a checklist of stuff I could do that would guarantee friendship.

If there was a book titled “90 days to find lifelong soulmate friends” I would have bought it.

You know what finally worked?  Being a good friend.  (hey, i think i paid $10 for some book to tell me that.  it’s yours for free.)

You know what else worked?  Transparency and authenticity and integrity.

7.  I want to do something that I can’t control.

I may not have ever been that brutally honest, but I’ve resolved stuff that’s beyond my control.  Gems from my early years of marriage?

“I resolve to make my husband pick up his own socks”  and “I resolve to convince my husband that beards are nasty.”

You can guess – I still pick the socks up, and he still sports facial hair.

8.  I want to do stuff I can’t afford.

I’m not talking about something obvious like “I resolve to visit Europe this summer.”  I’ve done that, but I had enough sense to set it as a five year goal and put some savings goals around it.

But we did resolve to attend some sporting events one year.  We wanted to attend six baseball games one year.  Sounds great (assuming you like baseball).   We did so without thinking through the cost or logistics.

The reality is that between parking, tickets, and refreshments, each game ran us $200 or more.  For more fun, add in my husband’s work schedule, a full social calendar, and the realities of my children’s bedtime.

If we’d gotten a sitter and gone as a couple, the cost wouldn’t have been much different.  Quite frankly, if we have a sitter then a baseball game is pretty low on my list of things to do.

9.  I want to be a writer.

Technically, I am one.  I write, therefore I am a writer.

But what I say that, what I really mean is that I want to be either (a) famous or (b) paid.  Preferably both at the same time.  In an ideal world, I would also be (c) good at it.  I don’t want to be a writer, I want to be a Writer.

Realistically, becoming the kind of writer I want to be (a, b, or c) requires a ton of time and energy be invested into the goal.  It also requires some luck and skill (neither one of which are under my control.)

Equally realistic?  I don’t exactly have unlimited amounts of time to devote to writing.  It’s just not my biggest priority.  I have a husband to love and kids to raise.  I have a house to clean and friends to listen to.  I have brownies to bake and I’m overdue for a dental visit.

Being a Writer is more of a dream than it is a goal.  There’s nothing wrong with as a dream.  But until I’m able to commit more time an energy to it, I’m likely to remain a writer than a Writer.  Perhaps when the kids are a bit older and the house remodel is finished I can do that.  Or not.

10.  I want to be someone other than me.

I remember the year I let a friend read my resolutions.  I had a long list of things I wanted to change about myself (grow out my hair, lose 30 pounds, move, get a new job, make new friends, buy a new car, redecorate my bedroom…)  I think I’d listed a big change to every single aspect of my life.

My friend told me I was trying to be someone else and asked (quite wisely) what I was willing to leave unchanged.

See?  I stink at making resolutions.

A few years back, I resolved to quit making resolutions.  I think it’s the only resolution I’ve ever kept.

How are you doing on your resolutions?  Dare I ask?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Houston Mom Blogger Susan Baker has a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood. She has two elementary school boys, one engineering husband, and one cat. She has a strange fascination  for eggs, socks, and books.  She spends far too much time on Social Media and at Target. She is crazy in love with her family.  She serves an amazing God.   She lives an ordinary life filled with wonder. [/author_info] [/author]

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Sarah Park says:

    Hi Susan,

    Almost all the resolution you have are also everyone else’s. I don’t believe also in making resolutions. Do we really have to wait for a New Year to change or start something we plan? We can do this anytime of the year. What is important is the determination we have to achieve the goals we set.
    Sarah Park recently posted..How to Choose a BankMy Profile

    • Sarah – I removed your URL because it shows up as a broken link every time you comment. While I welcome comments, I’m not a fan of bad links. (I’m also notoriously not fond of spam.)

      You’ve made my point exactly. The “classic” resolutions I listed (and have made in the past) rarely work. My previous post was all about the fact that we can make a fresh start any time.

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