Many of you have turned a new page, arranging neat rows of New Year’s resolutions along the light blue lines in your notebook. You are determined to see them through. And that’s wonderful.
The problem is, typically, as the calendar flips from January to February many bad habits creep back into our lives. Maybe it starts with skipping a week at the gym, or charging that one little item on your Visa, or maybe ordering a Big Mac instead of the salad. So, as inspiration, I offer you a rather amazing tale of a friend who made a list in 2012 and lived by those resolutions. To protect his privacy, we’ll call him Harry. His story is worthy of a spell on Oprah’s couch. I hope it will galvanize you to chisel your list in stone.
After letting himself go over the years with a steady diet of cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, and cheese fries (you should be sensing a pattern), first and foremost, Harry resolved to lose weight. But he wanted an easy, surefire method. So, he opened the phone book and started leafing through the pages. Fitness Instructors - no. Gyms - no. Health clubs - no, not quite right. Ah yes, there it was - lawyers. He dialed. Three weeks later, following the finalization of the divorce papers, he lost 185 pounds.
The next day, after looking at his pack of Marlboros and then his reflection in the mirror - then back again, and back again, and back again - Harry realized that he wanted to quit smoking. The whole thing just stunk. It was going on too long, every day the same old hassle. So, Harry walked into his boss’ office, fired up a cigarette, and told Mr. Lentilsummer to take his job and cram it in his keester. Why did everyone say quitting smoking would be so hard, he wondered.
While jobless, he turned on an afternoon self-help television show. On the screen a funny sounding doctor recommended that his guest, a harried businessman, take a trip to relax. Harry figured that would be a good resolution too, but he had no idea why a medical doctor would recommend taking LSD. It just seemed irresponsible. So, instead, he went to the travel agency to browse some vacation brochures. Unfortunately, he stumbled and fell walking through the door, crashing into a pretty young lady. Glossy cruise catalogs, a cup of java, and an Anne Hathaway lookalike went flying through the air. It turned out to be the most embarrassing trip of his life. Thanks for nothing Dr. Phil.
Of course, he still needed to find a job and resolved to do just that. But first, to move up the corporate ladder, he was told he would have to further his education. Harry looked at his High School diploma on the wall and thought it was time - another resolution. He took the diploma down, banged a nail higher up, and re-hung the diploma further up the wall. There, that was better.
Now, back to the job - or lack thereof. Harry penned another resolution in his notebook. Not only did he need a job, but a better job. And then, it clicked. He went to the horse track and got right to work on his better job. He placed bets all morning, took a 45-minute lunch, ordered a beer or seven, and finished a grueling eight-hour shift by picking Fortunate Filly to place in the afternoon heat. This was a career he could handle.
But alas, Lots-o-Luck beat out Fortunate Filly. Truth be told, none of his picks finished higher than fifth place. His better job was emptying his wallet. So, Harry knew his next resolution would be to get out of debt. He took out his sheet of resolutions, grabbed a pen, and turned on CNN while he wrote. And then, inspired by Wolf Blitzer reporting from Capitol Hill, he got an idea... an awful idea actually. Instead of making any spending cuts, according to Wolf, the federal government was simply going to raise the debt ceiling. If Congress could do it, why couldn’t a red-blooded American like Harry do the same, he thought. Harry moved across town to the cheaper apartments with the 10-foot ceilings.
Harry was alone and jobless in his new apartment (but on the bright side, at least he furthered his education up the new 10-foot wall). He found himself hitting the bottle a little too often. Realizing that he was getting good at this resolution thing, Harry knew the next one had to be to give up booze - to lead a life of abstinence, as he put it. Problem was, spelling wasn’t his strength, so he thought he could find this new life of abstinence at the liquor store. The clerk, when shown the list, was more than happy to sell Harry a fifth of absinthe.
Broke and tired, he hitched a ride back to his apartment with a farmer hauling loads of hay. He climbed in the trailer, took a swig from the bottle of absinthe, they hit a bump, and just like that Harry fell off the wagon. He nonchalantly dusted himself off and ambled along. Across the street was a strip club, and according to the marquee, that night’s featured dancers were Paris and Charity. And there they were, his last resolutions for 2012. After all, he always wanted to see Paris and give more to charity.
What does Harry’s story teach us about New Year’s resolutions? It’s easy to stay true, as long as you apply some creativity.