fat man

It’s January – a new year and another chance to wipe the slate clean and press the RESET button on all those failed commitments from the previous year.  Every year, I revisit my New Year’s Resolutions from the previous year, not so much to analyze how many of them I kept, because of course I kept NONE of them. Rather, I look back to chronicle how many weeks it took before I had completely bailed out on my very last resolution.  Usually that date is around January 11th. I remember 1995. That was a great year. I made it all the way through February before completely giving up on all my resolutions, goals and ambitions. (I might add, that was a leap year, so give me credit for an extra day!)

I’ve noticed an unsettling trend regarding my New Year’s Resolutions over the years. Over time, the goals have, well, sort of hit a plateau… then slowly slipped off the edge of that plateau…. into the deep, dark, cavernous ravine of best intentions gone awry. Take a look:

runner - in shape

My New Year’s Resolution Commitments – age 25:

  • Fitness & Health: Run six times a week – 30 miles total for the week; Complete one marathon
  • Weight: Drop 10 pounds by end of year.
  • Career: Complete grad school and get good-paying job making $50,000 in my first year
  • Nutrition: No more junk food – Cut out sugar from my diet. Eat more apples and oranges.
  • Finances: Pay off all my undergraduate loans by the end of the year.
  • Personal Development: Take up a musical instrument – how about the saxophone?
  • Family: Write home to my parents once a week.

Results – age 25:

I am pretty sure I ran 30 miles total – if you string all 52 weeks together and add them up. Run a marathon? Yeah, right. I somehow stumbled to the finish line of graduate school – that was enough of a marathon, if you ask me. And I negotiated a high-paying job extremely close to (50% of) my target salary goal. I did not lose 10 pounds. But hey, I only gained 2.

As for cutting out junk food, well, not so much. I did switch from the frosted cinnamon pop tarts to the unfrosted kind…. during Lent (and I’m not even Catholic). I did not pay off all my undergraduate loans but was able to make a nice down payment on a new car that is a real chick magnet. Too busy with grad school and getting a new job to worry about taking up a musical instrument. Maybe next year. As for writing home each week? Why write home each week when I can call home – which I did – every single month.

runner - out of shape

My New Year’s Resolution Commitments – age 35:

  • Fitness & Health: Run three times a week. Try to average 10 miles total per week.
  • Weight: Drop 20 pounds by end of year.
  • Career: Time for a career change. Get into the world of dot com startups. Only take a job that offers stock options.
  • Nutrition: No more junk food – Cut out sugar from my diet. Eat more apples and oranges.
  • Finances: Pay off all debts (other than the mortgage). Be completely debt-free by year end.
  • Personal Development: Really, take up a musical instrument – perhaps something a little easier than the sax, like the piano.
  • Family: Become a dad for the first time. Read parenting books at least 4 hours per week to help me become the best possible dad I can be.

Results – age 35:

Hmmm. I had a bum knee for most of the year. Blew it out getting up from the couch when I was reading a book about running. Weight loss? While I did not quite lose those 20 pounds, on the encouraging side, I ended up barely 5 pounds higher than I was at the start of the year. Not bad when you figure I didn’t do any running – did I mention I had a bum knee? I finally broke out of my old stale newspaper industry job and dove headfirst into the world of dot com startups. And I negotiated an offer with thousands of shares of stock options (which later proved utterly worthless) in lieu of decent starting salary.

The eating went well. I ate a lot more fruit this year – orange, grape and apple fruit rollups. We became totally debt free by July (yahoo) … and slipped back into debt in September. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Personal development? Er, um, I learned how to use a weed whacker. Does that count? And on the family front, I didn’t have time to read parenting articles 4 hours/week, but I must have changed over 500 diapers this year. That has to score me some parenting credit, right?

runner - Homer Simpson

My New Year’s Resolution Commitments – age 45:

  • Fitness & Health: Use stationary bike for 45 minutes twice a week. Take a brisk walk for 30 minutes once a week.
  • Weight: Drop 35 pounds by end of year.
  • Career: Get out of the world of dot com start ups. Don’t take any job that involves stock options.
  • Nutrition: No more junk food – Cut out sugar from my diet. Eat more apples and oranges.
  • Finances: Set aside $1000 a month for a college fund for our two kids’ college educations.
  • Personal Development: For goodness sake, take up SOME musical instrument – perhaps something a little easier, like the bongos, or if that’s too much of a reach, how about the triangle?
  • Family: Teach your kids to become curious about the world geography and cultures. Talk with them about a different country of the world each week.

Results – age 45:

Looks like I fell just slightly short of my goals this year. I got a new stationary bike and assembled it myself – that took 4 hours, plus two 2 more hours to disassemble and re-assemble it because it only worked in reverse. So I think that counts as exercise right there. I used it every now and then – although for full disclosure I did not always actually use the pedals. I found that it made a comfortable spot to rest after my 15-minute walk each month. No, I did not lose 35 pounds this year. Stop reminding me. But I gained less this year than I did the previous year. No wait. That’s not true. Never mind.

I am happy to report that I achieved the first part of my career goal by getting out of the world of dot com startups… by getting laid off, as the company filed for bankruptcy. Now, if I can just find a job before my unemployment insurance runs out. As for diet, can’t say that I have added any apples to my diet, unless you count my Apple iPod Nano. Yuck, yuck.  No, I did not take up a musical instrument. But I did learn how to download music onto my iPod Nano. Technically, my daughters figured that out for me. It was too hard for me to figure out. As for getting my kids interested in the countries of the world, I installed a GPS tracking app onto their cell phones so if they ever get lost, they can find their way home. So that’s sort of a geography lesson.

What have I learned?

In looking back over the past 30 years, I realize I’ve managed to fail spectacularly at my New Year’s Resolutions just about every year. This year, it finally dawned on me that the problem is not that I possess the self-discipline and restraint of a female house cat in heat. No, no, no. It is simply that I have set the bar too high. As any good coach will tell you, goals are only motivating if you actually have a chance of achieving them.

couch potato

So for 2010, at the chipper young age of 55, I have decided to adjust my high jump bar of New Year’s Resolutions to more achievable heights, lowering it from, say from a clearance height of 6 feet 11 inches to a more manageable height of say, 2 feet 4 inches:

  • Fitness & Health: Forget running, jogging or cycling. Too hard. Develop your tennis skills by playing the Wii tennis video game.  Buy pants with those elastic waist bands.
  • Career: Hold onto your job. No matter what. Suck up to your boss on a daily basis. This is no time to be job hunting. Screw the stock options.
  • Nutrition: All is lost. Just get your daily share of protein by eating peanut butter or cheese. And have some ice cream. Why fight the inevitable? I might suggest Butter Pecan. I’m told the pecan nuggets are high in fiber.
  • Finances: Teach your kids the powerful life lesson of getting a job to help pay for their own college education, the way I had to do. They will thank you later (okay, probably not).
  • Personal Development: Produce a humor blog to vent about all your shortcoming and missed opportunities throughout your life. And stick with your writing – no matter how many people tell you to “Stop! For the love of God, please stop!!!!”
  • Family: Love your kids. Love them, love them, love them. And tell them so every day. No matter what they just did to your car… when they drove it through the living room window… into your brand new flat screen TV… which fell over…. and killed the cat.

If there is one thing I have learned from my past New Year’s Resolutions it’s that the only thing I have consistently achieved is a track record of abysmal failure. So this year, my resolution is keep the bar low enough so I can walk over it… in my sleep…. with a tub of Butter Pecan ice cream under my arm.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2010 – 2011

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