ControverSunday: There’s No U in “Failer”

ControverSunday is a collaborative blog meme, whereby the goal is to share, discuss and hear out different perspectives on parenting, society and other stuff that matters. All those who participate bring to the table a unique perspective and approach others with mutual respect. Participating is a way to build community, to learn something and to reflect and evaluate our own choices.

(from the ControverSunday page at AMomentToThink)

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Resolutions. I don’t tend to make them. (flurried searching of my own archives to ensure that this is true)

At this time of year I kind of tune out the resolution talk, the same way I tune out the “how to drive in winter weather” that hits the news in November and “how to stay cool in the heat” that hits the news in July.

But since someone asked. I think the problem with resolutions is two-fold:

1. Traditional-style resolutions sound like someone bossy bossing us.

“I will swear less.” That was one of my resolutions when I was a kid.
“I will be nicer to my friend’s little sister.” That was another. I think I was 10.

I said those things not because I wanted to do them out of any sense of moral obligation but because I knew it was something that would get me more approval from the adults in my life. The changes I claimed I would make weren’t for me. And something that isn’t for you is probably not going to work out in the long run. I currently swear a lot, for example.

If you make resolutions that are about things you care about, and it works for you to start them at the beginning of the calendar year, go for it! I do believe in momentum. If other people are doing the same thing at the same time, the energy in the universe will support you, to a certain extent. (the flip side of this is that if everyone in the world abandons their resolutions at the same time, the energy will sag like a three year old nursing bra.)

But this little project I’m working on, here, this blogging every day thing? I am not calling it a resolution, to write every day. Because if I do, my anti-authority brain will rebel and trip me up. I know that.

2. Most resolutions aren’t quantifiable

Deliverables! Yes I am using business-speak! In the office, if someone gives you a project, and you are a beginner at that sort of project, they don’t just hand it to you and come back at deadline time. They evaluate you part way through, see how you’re doing, see if your path needs to be shifted a bit. They want you to succeed, after all. They want you to achieve.

I am speaking of course of the ever-illusive, supportive upper manager. I realize they are rare.

Resolutions have no deliverables, really. Unless it’s “lose 10 lbs by X” and then you either do or you don’t. But if you set yourself up to fail by making an unquantified request of yourself (“eat more vegetables”) (how many more? How many a day? what kind?) then your brain has your permission to cheat (I ate a carrot! That’s more than last week!) and at the end of the day you’ll be saying, I was going to eat more vegetables. But I didn’t really. Oh well. Eeyore Sigh.

AND! If you perceive yourself to have failed in any way, it will only cause a snowball effect and you will think you are a fail-URE, which of course you are not, you are just a fail-ER and not even, because you didn’t give yourself a realistic goal to meet. “There’s no U in Failer.”

Set yourself up to succeed! Every time you succeed, your brain gets a little jolt of joy and you think you are stronger. It’s like PacMan. Nom. Nom. Strength! Nom. Nom. Strength!

If I were to make resolutions, I would make them small and achievable. Then bigger. Then bigger! Until I would be eating an entire garden’s worth of vegetables every day and completely uninterested in chips. But I would be realistic about that process taking a year or two. And along the way I would set up little goal posts and give myself a prize for getting to each one. Pretend my brain is a Golden Retriever. It’s similar to my approach to to-do lists. I write “shower” on my to-do list every day. I always get to cross it off. That feels awesome.

You can make a resolution anytime. Just call it something else, because the word “resolution” is so loaded. Call it a promise. You can make one now. Make it small, make it significant, make it and keep it and bask in the glory of your achievement.

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10 Responses to ControverSunday: There’s No U in “Failer”

  1. elswhere says:

    This is exactly how I feel and why I’m not making any resolutions this year, even though I do have a quantifiable goal.

  2. Mary/kyooty says:

    I don’t mind making resolutions for the idea to move forward, but I do mind the bossy boss part, or making them for others. I’m making them for me.

  3. Arwen says:

    I like that very first reverb prompt of setting a word of anticipation and intent for the year.

    I did as well this goal setting spreadsheet, with measurable outcomes, but more in the manner of a To-Do list, with things both within my control and things I want to do.

    Just reminders of my own real priorities, and ways to make room for them. But the goal I’m setting is the endpoint. So writing or finishing or exercising or kale intake is the point: not publication or weight-loss or world domination.

  4. Dr Sarah says:

    Good advice! But I’m actually comfortable with the fact that I’ve set some pretty large resolutions that I almost certainly won’t fully fulfil. I’ve blogged more about this for my own Controversunday post, but, for me, it feels like a ‘shoot for the moon – if you miss you’ll be among the stars’ type thing. I fully appreciate that my approach isn’t for everyone, and it’s a horses-for-courses thing, like so much else.

  5. Liz says:

    I just made some intentions. Resolutions…well, I am just not resolute.

  6. t says:

    i made a promise to myself not to call anyone a bugger today, and here we are, almost 6pm, and so far so good (although nap time was touch and go). baby steps.

  7. melanie says:

    Ha – Failer! You crack me up. I have been writing out a list of goals for this year and plan on breaking them down into baby steps and starting off each month reviewing, revising and setting new goals. I’ve become terribly disorganized in the last couple years and I think this is the only way I can get back on track. My vegetable intake is fine though – it is just the rest of me that needs work.

  8. Christine says:

    A friend of mine (the Diva) and I once agreed that the best goal you can have for yourself is eating pie. Because then not only have you achieved your goal, you get pie! It’s easy to live the dream when the dream is pie.

    This also may have been stolen from a Just for Laughs comedian in 2002, but I’m not 100% sure.

    I make backwards resolutions, as in “I promise not to worry about my weight/health/exercise level/lack of sleep/messy house for at least three months”. I guess not worrying is a resolution, though…

  9. Amber says:

    This year I decided to choose a theme for 2011, instead of making resolutions. The theme feels gentler somehow. It’s more about allowing myself permission to make my life better, than setting myself up to be a failer.

  10. Megan says:

    I completely agree that it is important to set realistic goals and to celebrate the smaller achievements. One of my many (year round) quests for self-improvement is to be nicer to myself, and so I’ve been practicing the art of patting myself on the back for simpler tasks when what I really want to do is look myself in the eye and say “So?”