Making New Year’s Resolutions That Work

by Luke McKinney

January 1st sees more desperate false promises than the back seats of cars and prom night combined. New Year’s resolutions produceu more bulls**t than a chili-fuelled rodeo, and are even less fun to take part in. And deep down they’re the exact same thing: a small human brain trying to convince a rampaging beast full of bad decisions.

You have to remember a few simple things: you are not arch-priest of a pagan religion, January 1st is not the prophesied solstice, and you are not holding a magic lantern. So this isn’t a magical day giving your wishes more mystical force than normal. A man’s word should be his bond, but new year’s promises are the George Lazenby — not much fun and they end in tragedy.

“I resolve not to weep into lace when my love gets murdered next movie.”

“I resolve not to weep into lace when my love gets murdered next movie.”

Which is why we’ve got some advice to help you keep your promises this year.

Don’t Make Unreasonable Demands

Don’t start the year by making wild promises and then failing to deliver. Most New Year’s Resolutions are paradoxes of human evolution, because if simply wishing it could make you weigh less, you’d already have evolved into a pure energy being and be weightless.

Though all omniscient beings are technically weight watchers.

Though all omniscient beings are technically weight watchers.

Real life isn’t a video game. The year might have clicked up by one, but that doesn’t mean you’ve leveled up. You won’t suddenly get better at things. In fact, you’re probably very slightly worse at anything you haven’t already trained in. You can’t decide “This year I suddenly know Kung Fu” or decide you have +1 To Running. You just get to choose what you’re going to work at. You still need to do the work.

Nothing That Needs Purchases or Travel

If your resolution involves marching out and determinedly buying brand new workout equipment, you’re still in Christmas because you think the point is buying things. When men really march out to achieve things, they’re already given everything they need by the quartermaster. If you want to work out just start doing push-ups. If you’re still moving in February, cool, then you can think about getting equipment. If you’ve sworn to learn a language there is approximately infinite free material online. Buying a box of language CDs is just one more thing that’ll sit there staring accusingly at you instead of working your tongue. Just like the French girls you were dreaming of when you make that resolution.


The dream is a tiny bit Freudian.

When you confuse buying things with achievement you might as well go bankrupt and declare yourself the winner of capitalism. You’re meant to improve by doing things, then get equipment when you’ve already done as much as you can without it. Think: the instant it becomes possible to simply buy self-control, stores won’t sell it.

Making a resolution requiring gym membership or any other commute is the Easy Mode of quitting. It’s January. That’s the least pleasant time to go outside anywhere in the world, except the places where February is even worse. If your resolution can’t be achieved in your home or workplace, you might as well say it’s been sent to a farm in the country where it’ll be able to run around all day. At least then you’re lying to yourself about something happy.

Don’t Make Resolutions With Or About Drink

We’ve all made wild promises while drinking, and trust us, the next morning has enough problems without dragging an entire year under the influence. You’ve already got a hangover to deal with. That’s plenty.

At this point “Not dying” counts as self-improvement.

At this point “Not dying” counts as self-improvement.

And don’t do anything rash like swearing off drink. That’s like swearing off sex because you’re sleeping in the wet spot: you’ve already got what you want, and it’s worth it.

Just One Resolution

A structural engineer examining a bridge knows it’s important to identify every single flaw and fix them immediately, but that’s because bridges wouldn’t rather be playing Battlefield 3. When working on yourself one thing at a time is plenty. Setting up a ten-point plan of how you’re going to improve yourself just gives you nine more reasons to ignore every single one. As soon as you stop a single resolution, your brain figures “We’re not doing those anyway” and immediately ejects the rest to make room for more cream donuts.

“I’m self-improving my mass!”

“I’m self-improving my mass!”

Choose one resolution. Make it precise. Bulls**t like “eat better” is how you trick your own brain into not bothering to keep track. Make an exact numerical or binary promise like “I will do 100 pushups every day” or “I will not drink any soda.” Then passing or failing is obvious and inescapable.

“It turns out rum & cola works without the cola!”

“It turns out rum & cola works without the cola!”


Years Are For Trees

You only track your personal growth by the year if you’ve been chopped down to make toilet paper. And did nothing more exciting than “photosynthesize.” New Year’s Resolutions are how people announce that they think about fixing themselves less often than they think about changing their clock for daylight savings. And as soon as they blow it, they’re free to resume failing for the next eleven months.

“Welp, we have to wait here for eleven months until we can start again.”

“Welp, we have to wait here for eleven months until we can start again.”

Make a new week’s resolution. If you blow it, start again the next sunday. If you make it, awesome, do it again. Then do it better. Then increase the difficulty, or add something else you want to work on, and in a couple of months you’re suddenly someone who thinks about their life and works to make it better every day. And then you wonder why you were ever anything else.

bonusround2 Making New Year’s Resolutions That Work
Grab a shaker for science!

Grab a shaker for science!

Luke has a Tumblr and responds to every single tweet.

"Thanks, humanity. We think you're aces, too"

“Thanks, humanity. We think you’re aces, too”

Luke organizes a drinking deathmatch between the Bonds with Proven by Alcohol! The Best Bond Actor Is…, and provides role models for achievement by explaining how The Men on the Moon Were Even Cooler than You Know.

More from Luke McKinney

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