A celebration of failed New Year’s resolutions

The pressure is mounting for the New Year’s resolutions posts. First is the flurry of pitches from public relations firms that want to get their clients into the press. “Resolve to clean your house more thoroughly!”

Then come the academics weighing in with their research about how resolutions take willpower and how we only have a finite amount. Or how we need to make goals for ourselves that increase happiness. Or whatever will stick in mainstream media so the professors can get six-figure book deals for their research.

Next come the bloggers who round it all up in a round-up post because bloggers never get to take days off from blogging, so they write a bunch of posts ahead of time that are really lists of other peoples’ resolutions.

I’m going to skip all that this year and jump to the celebration of failed resolutions. Here are some resolutions you can be proud of breaking.

1. Spend less time doing stupid stuff on the Internet.
Did you know that fifteen percent of all content online is about cats? This tells me we have an inherent need to share cat information. You should honor that.

And, while you’re at it, did you ever search for pus-popping videos? There are full channels devoted to pus popping—cysts, blackheads, ingrown hairs, they’ve got it all. Also, extractions have the perfect pacing of a good porn video; the digging out of the impacted blackhead has the same sense of relief as porn but none of the guilt.

Do you think Taylor Swift is gay? You would cry for me if you knew how long I spent reading articles on this topic. It’s very controversial, though I am not sure I even care. But I am very goal oriented, and I needed to have an object for my sleuthing because goals are always easier to meet if you define them clearly.

To meet my goal of searching for less stupid stuff on the Internet I’ve limited my Amal Clooney searches to once a day. Because I have limited willpower so I use it only for important things.

2. Be loyal. Follow through. Don’t waste other peoples’ money.
Those are the types of resolutions that box you into bad relationships. How about just dumping the person who’s wrong for you? Do it before you have kids, okay? It seems like it’s so difficult to break off an engagement, but compared to breaking off a marriage with two pre-teens in tow, ending your long-term, unbetrothed relationship is valuable rehearsal.

So go ahead and call off the engagement. And honor the law that says the ring is a gift by reselling it on WP Diamonds. You can use all that extra cash to buy last year’s books by academics about what makes resolutions stick.  (Note: engagement rings falls under property law, and who gets the ring varies state by state. So if you’re a girl, break off the engagement in Montana. And if you’re a guy, break it off in New York.)

3. Write more.
I am uniquely qualified to tell you to dump this resolution because I have had it for 400 years and I’ve failed every year.

Or not. Because here’s the thing. It’s semantic.

This is a great time for me to mention that I have a course about how to blog. You are probably not blogging as much as you wish you were blogging because you have no idea what the point is. And you would be right to ask the question. How can you get yourself to write on your blog every day if you can’t pinpoint the point?

My favorite course ever was How to Write About Your Life. You can sign up for that one, too. I liked it because I got to tell people how to be reliable, consistent writers instead of hating myself over how I am not a reliable, consistent writer.

It’s so nice to focus on other peoples’ problems instead of your own. And I am, actually, a professional when it comes to that vein of escapist behavior.

Instead of writing more, I suggest you redefine what writing means. Sometimes in my son’s music lesson I think I should be taking notes, so I pretend the music notebook is my journal and I write write write. And that counts. Now it counts. Now – after 400 broken resolutions it counts.

4. Improve social skills.
This is a New Year’s Resolution that’s really about earning more money. It’s just a clever, evolved way to say it. Because people with good social skills earn more money.

But really, it’s only to a point. Because we can all think of people at the top of their game with terrible social skills: Steve Jobs, Marissa Mayer, Larry David.

And look at Lena Dunham’s character on Girls. In Season 2, in an effort to keep her friend from taking the kitchen chairs when he moves out, she sits on a chair with no underwear and rubs back and forth on it. “It’s my chair now,” she says.

If Lena Dunham is, indeed, the voice for her generation, then the voice for her generation is lacking social skills for sure. In a good way.

Chris Rock says he doesn’t like to do stand up at colleges anymore. He says a good comedian is always trying stuff that pushes people a little too far, and if the joke doesn’t work, you think, “OK. That didn’t work.” But because the kids record everything on their phones, and any joke that goes too far, they publish on the Internet and scream about it.

Rock says that the best artists are pushing past what’s okay in order to figure out what works. That’s how you find something new.

I’m thinking you might have to exist in a social skills vacuum in order to try stuff that goes too far.

5. Get more sleep.
Getting enough sleep is so important that if you are sleep-deprived, you function like a drunk person. But look, you have been drunk before, and it’s probably felt like a party, and your life is not so fun that it’s a party all the time, so you are not that sleep-deprived that you need to waste a resolution on it.

Anyway, recent data has shown that while sleep is a competitive advantage at work, and the richer you are, the more sleep you get. So since most people reading this are living above the poverty line, you’re probably getting enough sleep.

The real issue, according to Chip Walter writing in Popular Science is stress. He says human evolution is killing us. We are too smart for our own good and our brains have evolved faster than our bodies. He shows the influx of data coupled with our endless supply of food is making us unable to function the way our bodies were meant to function.

In other words: Sitting is the new smoking. And your brain needs rest time when it’s awake.

So everyone should meditate for twenty minutes a day. The army mandates it, my friend in LA says parent groups are doing it, athletes do it and musicians do it. And Silicon Valley companies like Google have been paying employees to meditate for years, which is evidence that if you are making resolutions to make more money, meditation is the New Year’s Resolution for you.

It’s a meta resolution, really. Because there is no real reason why we can’t meditate. We all have 20 minutes to spare. We can do it anywhere. We can do it even if we’re sick. We can meditate when we are sad. It doesn’t matter. You just sit. If you are staring at the wall, doing nothing, you get credit. And that’s probably the resolution we’re all looking for anyway.

32 replies
  1. Jillian
    Jillian says:

    First! Yay! Love your posts Penelope and I am trying to freelance now as I have an ENFP personality so I’m not really suited to sitting behind a desk doing 9-5. I’m trying to practice what you preach and create my own job. Hopefully it works. I don’t really believe in resolutions because nobody EVER keeps them… like everyone says I’m gonna loose 2 stone in January and guess what… it doesn’t happen. Would love to take one of your Quistic courses or do 1-1 coaching on the phone with you! Love your authentic voice, and love to read your blog! – Jillian

  2. Nur Costa
    Nur Costa says:

    Awesome post Penelope.
    I was starting to get mad at so many posts from bloggers about New Year’s Resolutions and their achievements in 2014 so far… So thank you!

    Is your son meditating in the picture? Cute!!!
    Regards, :)

  3. Lindsey
    Lindsey says:

    I love this. Maybe society is in a swing of nihilism, or perhaps I am personally tired of all the year end wrap ups. Either way, celebrating failed resolutions is smarter, more interesting, and certainly so much more fun than another post about making them. Thanks Penelope!

  4. Cate
    Cate says:

    Puss popping video should be “pus”

    You are one of the best bloggers out there, Penelope. But don’t listen to us – just follow your own self and keep doing. BTW, I’d love a post from you on what happens with all those one-hit wonders who put out a giant song or painting, etc. (or business) and then they are done. Nothing else ever happens to or from them, but they will always be remembered for that ONE thing, action, business, song, etc.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      My editor has been deleting everything I write about pus for so long, and he finally let this paragraph through. And look! Now I am learning how to spell pus. This post is a gold mine for learning!


      • Cate
        Cate says:

        I am an editor myself. In fact, I am reading your post rather than editing a rather dull piece.

        Your work is great. I brought up the one-hit wonders because I think once successful people start listening to the praise and comments around them rather than following their own inner voice and continuing their work, they lose what made them successful in the first place. Although it may also cause them to grow (Chris Rock, perhaps, may be a good example of this).

        • Kara Marck
          Kara Marck says:

          I love, love, love that Penelope replied to someone’s spelling edit with that much enthusiasm. Happy Holidays Everyone!

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    It strikes me once again when looking at this photo and reading this post that your children always come first. You are a great mother.

  6. Maria
    Maria says:

    I will practice it. And see if meditation helps me with procrastination and execution at work. As an ESTJ I am great at creating ideas, selling myself, pushing and motivating others and making money with whatever idea I have… but man, how much I procrastinate is insane! (most of the time spent on the internet). I will follow Penelopes advice, as well, as my mothers advice: meditate

  7. Surbhi
    Surbhi says:

    I will follow your advice. It will be very helpful to write more and more. New year resolutions can make your life better. But it is hard to follow all the making resolutions. I have shared this blog with my all friends.

  8. Anon
    Anon says:

    How is Lenna Dunham the voice of my generation? I hear a lot of people on the net say that, but they are usualy 40+ years old (case and point – the author of the linked article).
    My conclusion is that she represents genY as genX sees it.

    • colleen
      colleen says:

      Good theory and something I was wondering myself. Anyone else could do LD’s job, and there’s probably hundreds of 22 year olds who wish they could. I’d appoint either Chelsea Clinton or Ivanka Trump, but I think they are both late Gen X.

  9. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    1. Don’t hold on to anger. Forgive quickly.
    2. Always keep end game in mind (mine is to be happy and healtht and to be the kind of person people miss and want to be with).

    I’m not sure if those are resolutions or outmost priorities so I work on them daily and so I can’t fail.

  10. Mayank
    Mayank says:

    Every year I take new resolutions but I don’t even remember them a couple of month later. Probably I am not as good as others in making resolutions.
    This year too I will take some, and after reading your blog I hope I will meditate from day zero and continue for the most part of the year.

  11. Kat
    Kat says:

    “I’m thinking you might have to exist in a social skills vacuum in order to try stuff that goes too far.”

    Totally true.

    My 2015 improve-social-skills game plan:

    1. Oust my incompetent boss by succeeding in my own projects – he can’t do anything useful to save himself anyway
    2. Get engaged to someone my family disapproves

    So as you can see the above 2 “improvements” are oblivious to basic social rules to begin with (the first one is aimed to break rules and the second one will betray loved ones.)

    I don’t mean to live this way. But in a way, I must move on too.

  12. esceh
    esceh says:

    Unlike one of the other suggestions posted here, i do not think that you should be worried about wearing sneakers as being a beacon for everyone to know that you are a tourist – after all, you will have a HUGE backpack on! I suggest teevas or berks and brown casual dress shoes for guys that way you can get in the discos clubs Although I like comfortable crosstrainers, they are heavy and require you to bring more pairs of socks, and they will not grant you access to clubs

  13. Cassie
    Cassie says:

    I stumbled upon your blog searching for how to live without a refrigerator. I am not sure I quite got the answer (you went from wanting a $40,000 fridge to having a bunch of little fridges?), but anyhow I just wanted to let you know that your site is interesting. I also agree that you should go where your heart calls you.

    We sold/gave away/tossed most of our belongings (all but four suitcases and a cat) and left everything and everyone we knew in Colorado in order to move to a 300 sq ft cabana on four acres with a flock of chickens and turkeys AKA our paradise in the middle of the Caribbean.

    Now we are researching the next phase that will include building and living in a cabin across the ravine on solar energy -hence my original question about living without a fridge.

    For us, these are not so much resolutions as goals. And I have found that to accomplish goals they must be S.M.A.R.T. (Anyone who has ever written a grant will know this acronym.)

    Just by writing them down -including what’s right about the “failures”- you have committed more than most. Good luck and Happy New Year!

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      Re living without a fridge I’d say try to imagine how people lived back in the day with no fridge. I imagine lots of dried meat.

      I lived without a fridge for years. My mom would dig a hole in the floor and put a damp towel to keep the sand from collapsing (probably not a problem in the Caribbean as I imagine the soil is pretty sticky). She’d put a chunk of ice and keep the meat and the milk next to it. Done.

      This took continuous effort because we lived in the dessert and it was incredibly hot (>100*).

      I think that what she should’ve done is give up the milk from our diet entirely. And really cut down the meat consumption to once a week. Then go to the store, buy the meat, prepare the special meal. But both my parents loved meat so much.

      In the past I couldn’t imagine changing my diet so much. Now I have given up life long staples. It was just a matter of getting used to it.
      I was almost vegetarian for a long time. Not because of any other reason than meat took too long to prepare and we were too tired/lazy/uninterested/we’d rather go out to eat if we’re going to make something with meat.

  14. Patricia
    Patricia says:

    I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Except this year. At the beginning of 2014 I resolved to complain less.


  15. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    Lots of cat information doesn’t mean we need it. We may just need to kill time as a publisher or get something not that disgusting as a reader. If it is not cats, something else will be out there. Maybe doggies, fish or even flies.

  16. through my autistic eyes
    through my autistic eyes says:

    Improving social skills isn’t on my new year’s resolution at all. My job doesn’t really require it.

    Learning how to overcome my insomnia is. Practice during the day how to take deep breath and feel the muscles relaxing with each breath, more and more calm with each breath. Insomnia is worse than Asperger itself, much worse.

    And spending more time with my family, although it’s exhausting to be around people.

  17. Sonam Gupta
    Sonam Gupta says:

    Very nice post.Now will new year time start.In this time, all people are very happy.
    You have written a great article. It will help to write Unique Article.

    Happy new year in advance!

    Thanks to share this post:)
    Sonam Gupta

  18. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    I was just watching a youtube clip of Jordan Belfort discussing goal setting and how it’s now synonymous with failure. People set goals and don’t give a shit if they achieve them. He concluded by saying there needs to be something above the goal. There needs to be a vision that inspires you. So this year before I set my goals for 2015, I’m setting a vision.

    Also, I have done a really good job of avoiding pus videos on the internet up until this point and I think I will continue that trend. The variety provided in this post was tempting though.

  19. Rod Robinson
    Rod Robinson says:

    Very insightful and encouraging Ponelope! I am looking forward to these same resolutions next yea. Like you said, maybe sleep won’t do it, but meditation is always possible. A fresh mind yields greater returns.

  20. Preeti
    Preeti says:

    I was just watching a youtube clip of Jordan Belfort discussing goal setting and how it’s now synonymous with failure .

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