Every New Year, I like to think about making resolutions. Some will be quickly broken. Others linger. A few will last – perhaps not in original form but will impact or change my life.
My biggest resolution was on New Year’s Day in 1975. I celebrated in Tokyo – as an exchange college student. Japanese celebrate the New Year with many traditions and lots of food and drink over a three-day period. I visited a good friend, stayed with his family, visited temples and shrines and drank lots of sake.
Sometime during those blurry three days, I thought of my family back in California and I tried to imagine a Japanese family farm – an ancient one in southern Japan where my grandparents had emigrated from in 1900s and no Masumoto had yet returned. I made a resolution to go “back” to both farms, stay and work in the small village outside of Kumamoto and, later, go back home to the Central Valley in California and perhaps, perhaps I’d give farming a try.
Few other resolutions carried such weight, but every New Year’s Day I’m reminded to make a few resolutions.
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Most resolutions are typical, and they tend to fall into five categories.
1. Health. Losing weight, eating better, stop drinking, stop smoking, go to the doctor.
2. Economic. Get out of debt, spend less and save more.
3. Family. Spend more time with family, be a better (fill in the blank – father, mother, son, daughter).
4. Social. Be a better friend, help others, fall in love, travel.
5. Fun. Enjoy life, learn something new (another fill in the blank – yoga, painting, gardening), be less stressed.
All good so far. At one time or another in my life I have done almost all of them. Most lasted weeks and months, a few stuck and continue today.
But this year, I’d like to add some alternative resolutions.
▪ Stop worrying about celebrities’ screwed-up lives.
▪ Don’t beat yourself up for not (fill in the blank – going to the gym, drinking a little, watching TV, eating dessert …).
▪ Leave the country and take a real break.
▪ If you can, quit your job; money alone is not worth it.
▪ Avoid enemies, run away from them and be nice to strangers. Learn to talk to people waiting in line with you.
▪ Turn off your phone. Try shopping locally. Act confident . It takes practice; do it with family and friends first.
▪ Make a bucket list of things you want to do before it’s too late and choose the easiest one and just do it.
▪ Be emotional without being hysterical.
▪ Laugh. Joke. Don’t take yourself and life too seriously (probably including these resolutions).
Now I have to add a disclaimer and go negative because people will also tell you why resolutions don’t work.
Most resolutions are unrealistic and fated to fail. The theme “New Year, new you” is statistically doomed, only 8 percent of resolutions are achieved.
A few experts will claim resolutions are bad for you. They make you feel better but only temporarily. You get lost in the magical belief your life will be transformed. The annual failure damages your sense of self-worth. You cheat yourself of the chance to recover and believe you’ll have to wait the entire year to start over. In the end, nothing actually changes.
Yet remember my resolution: Purge negatives, including what I just said. Instead, the New Year is also an opportunity to be entertained by some of the worst resolutions I’ve heard of.
▪ Married by the end of the year. Really? Why not start with making a new friend and go from there.
▪ Go blond.
▪ Win back your ex – this will never work.
▪ Fit into your high school jeans.
▪ Try to change (fill in the blank – your spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, family member, family pet).
▪ Become famous. If you try, you’ll probably be famous for the wrong reasons.
In the end, maybe we’re simply trying to be better people. So here are some tips on keeping resolutions all through the year. First, don’t make so many. Start small, do the simple ones first. And finally, it’s not necessarily the goal you want – but the journey that counts (which usually involves changing a behavior).
So enjoy making just one resolution and doing something very simple. In Japan, I wanted to go home to the farm – but I didn’t say I wanted to become a farmer; that resolution came gradually and much later.
So did writing. So did good friends. So did family. So did love. Have a great New Year.
David Mas Masumoto is an organic farmer near Fresno and award-winning author of books, including “Epitaph for a Peach” and “Wisdom of the Last Farmer.”