A New Year’s resolution is usually a spur-of-the-moment thing for me.
Somebody asks what I’m giving up or changing for the New Year, and I’ll just blurt something out like, "Cut back on coffee" or "Take a cooking class."
The truth is, that 2012 will find me making toast to dip in my cappuccino, just like last year. I have no intention of cutting out coffee.
And though I’d love to know how to roast a chicken without dehydrating it, cooking lessons are just another random idea that springs out of my mouth, unbidden.
In the moment, I feel obligated to come up with something — and to make it virtuous. I couldn’t possibly admit that the first thing on my list is to download those three "Mentalist" episodes I missed.
As for work, well, there are always those obligatory throw-backs we can blurt out: "Keep in better contact with the database. Sell more homes. Be more organized"
But here’s the problem. According to the experts, even if you meant to make the resolution, and you really, really, do want better contact, more sales and a clean desk, 60 percent of you will still fail miserably after six months.
Why? Psychologists say it has everything to do with setting finite and measurable goals. In other words, if you want to succeed, you will need well-defined objectives: "I will call, write or visit five contacts, Monday through Friday. I will return all voice mails within 24 hours. I will return all email inquirires each workday."
Or, "I will sell five homes per month."
Perhaps even, "I will re-file all hard-copy paperwork when I am done working with it."
Sounds good. But my take is that the vast majority of detailed resolution-making will still fail. Popular culture doesn’t accept the idea of self-governance without immediate rewards. At all. Ever. It is far better, says the world, to live in the moment and award positive feelings.
Now, I don’t mean to be a buzz kill, but take this scenario: You show up at the office and encounter two counteroffers, three addendums that need signatures, plus a new offer faxed in overnight.
In a thunderous flurry, all that paperwork takes a beating (in record time, no less). With a sigh of contentment and a little pat on the back, you leave that desk in shambles and take off for a $5 latte, a little "reward" for being so awesome. You’ll make copies, scan docs and file hard copies later. And then, if you call everyone back who left voice mails last week, then you’ll get, I don’t know, a new suit? Maybe that’s too much. A new tie.
Sacrifice, hard work, patience — these are not sexy ideas. They’re kinda boring. And old.
So am I saying don’t reward yourself? No way! I love new shoes, handbags and dinners out. Let’s just keep things in perspective. Let the results of hard work and achieved goals be part of the reward we so longingly crave.
Lastly, I’ll admit I would actually enjoy (and benefit from) some cooking lessons. Buying a fresh-roasted chicken at Safeway really isn’t the same as making it at home. And I could use a lesson or two in sauce-making. So, maybe I will take a class.
I will sign up for the 2012 spring term Cooking for Beginners class at Lane Community College on Tuesday nights, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
But I will never give up coffee. NEVER.