01 January 2006

More on New Year's resolutions. I think what bugs me most about them (and about people in the gym during January) is that a lot of them are just different ways of saying, "try harder." My personal feeling is that we sort of have a fixed amount of willpower or energy that we can spend on life. If you want to exercise more or lose weight, you have to find the time and energy for it; if you want to be a better person you're going to have to find excess willpower to do it.

In other words, there's probably some reason why you're not already exercising much, or you're not at the weight you'd like to be at. It might have to do with any number of other lifestyle choices you've made (like how much you work, where you eat, etc.). If you want to really change something and make a resolution that sticks, you should sit down, write down your priorities in life, and then decide if your lifestyle supports those priorities. If it doesn't, then you have genuine motivation to change your lifestyle.

As for resolutions to be a better person, I think those are pretty much impossible to meet unless there's some strong external motivation, like avoiding a relationship breakup. Even so it's really, really difficult to change who you are through willpower (yes, I've tried).

A better type of resolution is the Noah-type concrete goal: I'm going to accomplish X this year (one example: making Dave ditch a class). There, you can devote your energy to achieving the goal, and once it's achieved, you're done and the energy is transferred back to the rest of your life.

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