New Year’s Day advice: Just keep on truckin’

30 Dec

Traditional New Year’s resolutions bite.

We never fail to make and break these every year. I don’t care if it’s losing weight, being kind to others, cleaning up our language or quitting smoking. By Jan. 15, we’re chowing down on steak and gravy, mac and cheese and Old Milwaukee beer while watching really bad Lifetime movies. We’re screaming at the Wal-Mart cashier. We talk like drunken sailors, even at church. We’re lighting up a Marlboro behind the church.

But ladies and gentlemen, there is one serious resolution we can all make. You shouldn’t need a lit-up Times Square ball to do this.

Face the challenges thrown at you — constructively and immediately. Do this when they’re thrown at you — not just during the first days of January.

OK. So I know that may sound pretty lame and like something you’d find on one of those “inspirational” signs you’ll often find for sale at a mall kiosk. They’re next to the people trying to sell you miracle nail buffers — telling you to “prepare to be amazed”. But with our economy, it’s something we should all keep in the back of our minds and at all times.

Life is basically a fan. Sometimes, it’s moving at a slow relaxing pace. In a matter of seconds, it will spin so furiously that it sways back and forth — looking like it’s going to fall out of the ceiling. And crap continually hits it at warp speed.

So, here’s the deal. If you see something that needs to be done, just do it. You may come to this realization in January, April or July. You may have never been able to plan for it. But don’t wallow in your misery until the next Times Square ball drops. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT AND AT THAT POINT. When you do this, try to keep the crying, screaming and general dramatics in check. I admit that I’ve done that quite often this past year, but I’ve let it out and gone on with life.

Case study: I used to smoke like a burning freight train from hell and did so for 11 years. One day, I was vacuuming the carpet with the sweeper I inherited from my grandmother. It weighs about 900 pounds and has a frayed cord thanks to her dogs chewing it up. I got halfway across my living room and I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I honestly thought, “Oh God, I’m having a heart attack, and I’m not even 30!” I took a few minutes to chill out on the couch. I was just overexerting, I presume, because it went away rather quickly. I’m guessing it wasn’t a heart attack. But that did it for me. I took a moonlight ride, bought Commit lozenges and the rest is history.

It was Jan. 15, 2008. I had made no resolution to quit until that moment. I just had something suddenly thrown at me, and I took care of it. I haven’t touched a cigarette since.

See, the problem with traditional resolutions is that we often define them too tightly or automatically start slamming down mountains to climb right in front of us. The combination of little-to-no flexibility and something daunting is a great way to set yourself up for failure. When those resolutions fail, we tend to not get in the mindset of “Hey, let’s do something to make our lives better,” until another new year comes. The vicious cycle keeps repeating itself.

Here’s why there’s a better chance of the other one working. All of our challenges are different, and they usually travel in groups. These can be financial — as well as personal, health-related, etc. These pop up at various times. Some can be overcome in minutes, and others take years. Nevertheless, we’re not specifically defining what we will do and when.

Sure, a lot of people in the goal-setting world are all about strict definitions. But sometimes, you need flexibility. For we, the flat broke, stuff hits the above-mentioned fan constantly. If what we are doing is extremely rigid with its rules and timelines, there’s a higher chance it will fall by the wayside.

Need more proof that this is something we all need to do? Sure, there are signs the economy is improving. The unemployment rate has recently fallen in 36 states, and the national numbers have seen a slight decline. But that decline was only .2 percent. Notice that little decimal point. According to this CNN Money story, about 100,000 people enter the workforce each month during a normal economy. As the economy improves, that number could double each month of 2010. That means more than two million jobs would have to be created this year just to keep the overall unemployment rate from rising.

You also have to look at exactly what is making those numbers get smaller. Michigan has been in an economic quagmire even before “The Great Recession”. Its recent unemployment rates peaked at 15.3 percent in September, and they are now at 14.7 percent. But how much of this can be attributed to people leaving the state to find work? Economists say the only way Detroit’s unemployment rate — 17.3 percent — will decrease is for the jobless to leave and find work elsewhere.

I hate to be the manure dumped on the parade, but I don’t want to stray from reality, either.

But as I’ve said here before, we are in charge of our destinies. We are going to get things thrown at us that are out of our control, but we have a choice as to how we’re going to face them. You can run away or fight. I plan to fight. Are you with me?!

I have to give kudos to sandyb for the inspiration on this one. I was going to do an entry about financial resolutions for the new year, but she got me to thinking in a much different direction. She and I don’t have the exact same take on the situation, but she put my gears in reverse 🙂 Check out her entry here.

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4 Responses to “New Year’s Day advice: Just keep on truckin’”

  1. sandyb December 30, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    Aw, thank you for the holla back!

    And now I take from a lesson from you- I love how you blend the economy and life goals and CNN into one post. Now THAT is talent, honestly. I mean, you have stats in your post! Smart cookie, you. (wish I read useful stuff like this more often.)

    Your smoking story is a great one, too- and I’m not even going to sweat the “I’m not even 30 yet” bit- because a) you quit (way to go!); and b) it’s a perfect example of how change, improvement and the will to ACT on our desires just needs to be done. Think later.

    • flatbrokegirl December 30, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

      Thank you so much! Anytime!

      Being a newspaper reporter in this kind of economy forces you to make other goals. You can’t choose to be a “lifer” anywhere. I’m getting hit with a third round of furloughs for the first quarter of 2010, and so many of my colleagues elsewhere have been laid off. You can’t afford to get yourself comfortable. At the same time, you never know when it’s going to happen, and you have to ACT. Every time we’ve been furloughed, we had little warning — or none at all. The same thing has happened at a friend’s paper, only with layoffs.

  2. Amanda December 30, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    I get the appeal of making resolutions, but I haven’t kept one of them. I could easily say, January 1 I’m going to stop eating like a pig and run every day, but that’s not going to happen, realistically. I like your idea. I’ll probably still make them, but the last one is going to be “Have a plan B you’re comfortable with.” No more freaking out when things don’t go my way, or when unexpected things happen.

  3. 2berrys December 31, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Great post. It’s so true that people wait until Jan. 1 to finally get serious, then usually fail and have to try again next year. Not me! I’m jumping on your thought process-bandwagon! I’m looking to set goals this coming year.

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