One thing that I didn’t mention in my post yesterday about New Year’s Eve gym resolutions is that I’m terrible at NYE resolutions and resolutions in general. I don’t even make them anymore. You might recall that time I attempted NaNoWrMo and only tallied 16,000 out of 50,000 words – no more or less than I usually write in a month. Or you might recall that time I vowed never to order more than three rolls of sushi ever again, only to find myself sidling up to the Happy Samuri bar days later and stuffing my face with spicy tuna rolls and washing them down with miso soup like I was on my way to the electric chair.  

It feels like when I make an official, on paper, resolution to do something, the unruly jaded teenager in me appears – that dark, Hot Topic part of my personality who thinks seatbelts are stupid and unprotected anonymous sex is kind of cool – and she makes it her New Years resolution to thwart anything responsible that I have in mind.

It’s that part of me that rolls her eyeliner-smudged eyes and says, “So – why don’t we quit now, since it’s either that or doing this for the rest of our lives. It will only hurt more if we quit in mid-June than if we quit now. You know, before we’re emotionally involved.” It’s a strong point, and I crumble to it every time. This is why I can never smoke a single cigarette – there would be no going back and I would be dead in days. The doctors would be baffled – they would have never seen anything like it – who knew that a single Newport Light would be a gateway drug to heroin, gambling and prostitution?

My economics buddy Seth over at The Blog of Diminishing Returns, has an interesting post on whether reward or punishment is more effective in sticking to promises we make to ourselves. In a NYE mini-experiment, a Yale econ professor tries punishment over reward – he gave $1,000 to a friend, telling him only to return it when his goal was accomplished and keep it if he failed.

It’s not so much the monetary loss that intrigues me about this idea, but that of having to answer to another person. Being accountable to someone else, other than me and my alter-ego, might be the answer. Sometimes it’s hard to go home and write at night (that’s a lie: it’s hard to go home every single night and write) but it’s a lot easier if either 1) Ben is in the next room typing and making me feel bad or 2) I can start typing first and make Ben feel bad. I mean, once we start writing, everything is great, but opening that laptop each night can be excruciating.  

In any case, for me, the trick is to not make official resolutions. Instead, I drop them casually in conversations, knowing that next time I see the person they’ll ask me how I’m doing. So, they’ll say, have you made $5,000 more freelancing this year than last year? Have you completely eradicated girly push ups from your regiment? Have you succeeded in being less of a jerk to people?

Mostly, though, I’ve got to constantly keep irresonsible Hot Topic Sarah from sabotaging my grown-up plans. I’ve got to keep her in the dark and confused. Maybe I’ll go feed her some sushi.