#2. Going Balls to the Wall
How many times in your life have you seen some drunken dumbass stand up on a table at 11:59 on December 31, and proudly proclaim to the world, "This is my last cigarette!" And you're all like, "Get down from there, Mom! And that's a dildo."
But they're not done. "And no more booze! I'm jogging two miles every morning, and learning to read Latin! I'm going to be a brand new person next year, right after I finish smoking this OH MY GOD NO."
And in fact, many of those people will wake up the next day and start kicking their old life's ass. They can almost hear the montage music in their head as they soak all the cigarettes in the sink, and dump out the booze and go shopping for running shoes. You can see them packing their fridge with greens and diet shakes, boasting every 10 seconds about how amazingly great they feel.
"Someone stop that healthy, energetic blanket thief!"
Then their body freaks the hell out because it's used to a certain diet and lifestyle. Suddenly, they have no energy. They're shitting gravel. They're waking up with heartburn every morning. All those chemical addictions start screaming. They stormed into the ring, ready to knock out all of their vices in the first round, but punched themselves out 30 seconds in.
Then, feeling their bodies go through that nightmare, they start thinking, "Not drinking is making me sick!" Or, "Man, I must be allergic to vegetables. These things aren't healthy -- they're destroying me!"
And then the cold reality hits: This is forever. Quitting smoking means, "I will never light up a cigarette again for the rest of eternity." There is no finish line, no reward, just a seemingly infinite expanse of a grim, pleasure-free existence. If you're quitting for good, the only finish line is death.
"I did it. I went my whole life without smoking. Now, I can finally -- shit, I'm dead."
I almost killed myself doing this.
Regular readers know I stupidly didn't talk to a doctor before abruptly ending a 23 year drinking binge cold turkey. But a whole lot of you have the same personality type: If we're going to do this thing, we're going to fucking do it. We want to binge on self-improvement the same way we binged on booze. Pedal to the floor, no boundaries, not letting anybody else's advice slow us down. If it's a war between will power and addiction, we're going nuclear on addiction's fucking ass!
"I'LL BEAT THIS ANGER PROBLEM IF I HAVE TO FUCKING KILL YOU TO DO IT!
That's OK. It'll wait. You're still a prisoner of your biology and when everything from your blood sugar to your dopamine levels start bouncing all over the place, your biology will choke out that overconfident bravado in under a week. You've got to be smart, you've got to be patient and you've got to know yourself. Which brings us to ...
#1. Failing to Know Yourself
No matter what you choose as a resolution, if you don't know yourself, you're doomed before you even announce it to your shirtless bar buddies. The problem most people have with these commitments is that they're picturing themselves as a completely different person with infinite time, money, energy and resources.
Got any friends talking about how they've started doing P90X, the exercise program they're constantly advertising everywhere? That program is 60 minutes a day, six days a week. Add in the time you'll spend getting ready beforehand, showering afterward and trying to catch your breath when it's over, and you'd better block off two hours for the project. A day.
Don't get me wrong, you'll get fit as hell doing that. But when you imagine yourself devoting 10 or 12 hours a week to exercise, are you imagining what you're not doing? After all, right now in your unmodified life, do you find yourself just staring at the walls for two hours, completely dumbfounded as to how you're going to spend it? I sure as hell don't. So where is that time coming from? Sleep? Work? Cooking dinner? Cleaning the house? Time with your girlfriend/boyfriend/family?
Same thing with the resolution to eat healthier. It's great that you're not going to stop at the Taco Bell drivethru any more. But did you also plan for the one to two hours a night now spent cooking a meal from healthy, fresh ingredients? Why the hell do you think you started eating fast food in the first place? Shit, why the hell do you think drivethrus were invented?
The "I'm going to travel more" thing sounds like the most noble resolution possible. Everybody should get out and see the world. Are you going to drop out of society and hop boxcars across the country? Because otherwise that shit costs time and money that has to be stolen from something else. Something else that you are doing for a reason.
And if the resolution is to quit something intended to free up time (World of Warcraft, TV, porn, going to bars) then you've got to stop and acknowledge that those things were filling a need. Do all of your friends play WoW? So what, you're just going to abandon them? You're quitting to free up time, but to do what? To learn rock climbing? Or to drink?
Start a business?
Is the thing you're replacing it with going to fill the same need (stress relief, socializing, sex) as the thing you're quitting?
This isn't the same thing as, "Why even bother, you know you'll just fail, you worthless jackoff." You won't and you're not -- you're the miraculous end result of millions of years of cutthroat evolution that made you the king of this fucking planet. But you also have needs, and weaknesses, and you have to plan around them. Future You will need entertainment, and stress relief, and rest.
And a reasonable sense of modesty.
I gave up World of Warcraft because I was spending as much time on that game as I was in my full time job. Now, to fill the void, I start meat fights with random people at the local butcher's shop. Yeah, some people might not call that a hobby, but I guarantee that they've never been pelted in the neck with a 10 oz. sirloin. And knowing that, I think I just figured out my resolution for this year. I'm going to have to free up shitloads of time.
John answers fan mail on his tumblr.
For more Cheese, check out 5 Wacky Internet Pranks That Can Get You Jail Time and 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Quitting Drinking.