Robert Kirby: What’s missing in your New Year’s resolutions?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

Made your New Year’s resolutions yet? You haven’t? Excellent. Next to horoscopes and animal sacrifices, it’s about the most useless thing you can do to enhance your life.

Don’t get me wrong. Making a commitment to do better — as in telling yourself “from this point on, I am going to stop shoving a fork in the toaster” — is an excellent way to improve.

What’s screwy is believing that the first day of the year is the best time to begin such a new challenge. First, because launching resolutions Jan. 1 stand no better chance of being successful than those begun any other day. Second, the success depends entirely on your willpower rather than a particular jumping-off point. The only point of time that matters is the moment you commit:

“Beginning Super Bowl Sunday, I resolve that my consumption of alcohol will no longer involve the police” or “I will start brushing my teeth every day when the moon is in the seventh house.”

If these sound stupid, it’s because they are. Don’t wait. Begin now. Self-improvement doesn’t care when you start because, well, it doesn’t really exist — not until you make it a reality.

All that matters is to start something and stick to it until you either reach your goal or wake up in the morning and realize that it made no sense in the first place.

Some resolutions don’t. What causes most of them to fail is overreach — like vowing to lose 10 pounds in an evening in the comfort of your own home.

Short of cutting off your head, that isn’t going to happen. You’ll just be setting yourself up for failure and, of course, being dead. Try to be more practical.

If your primary diet consists of beer and Hostess products, tell yourself that you’ll lose the weight in six months by switching to lite beer. Or only eat one Twinkie in every package.

Another way to undermine your effort is to tell people about it. I know, I know. People believe they need a support group to achieve a goal. But consider that you’re merely spreading the effects of disappointment when you fail. The resulting shame may well cause you (and them) to drink, eat, smoke, even more than before.

My advice is to tell others only when you start to see actual results. For example, say it’s been 13 days since your last cigarette. That’s not a bad time to let it be known; you’re more than ready to deal with it. If a friend lights up and offers you a Marlboro, seize the moment to confide in him your resolution.

“How about I bash you in the head with a %#@! rock instead? I haven’t had a cigarette in nearly two weeks, you stupid @*&!.”

This, of course, assumes that one of your resolutions isn’t to stop cursing or resorting to violence with little or no provocation. But, hey, we all have stuff we need to work on.

If you do let someone in on your goal, make sure it’s someone who actually can help. Just as soon as I decide to improve myself, I’m going to buy my 5-year-old granddaughter a cattle prod.

Me • “Every time Papa says a bad word, you poke him with this.”

Ada • “Will it hurt?”

Me • “Oh, hell yes!”


Pain is a powerful motivator. Resolve to try it. You’ll see results.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.