Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year’s what?

This whole resolution thing is way overrated

Yeah, this is supposed to be the time of year when we think about the coming year and what we plan to accomplish during it – never mind that such promises as we made last year and the year before and the year before that have all gone by the wayside.

I see it again and again: We all promise to ourselves that this year, for a change, we actually will get into a fitness routine and a sensible diet in order to get into better shape; this year, for a change, we will get out of our comfort zones and do something new and challenging; this year, we will make the weather, our boss, and other factors obey our wishes, so we can accomplish what we want to.

And every year, we start out with good intentions, but then we never carry through. Oh, yeah, we get all of the motivational hogwash, especially in the beginning, but it’s not enough. In fact, the motivational books and tapes and speeches just make us feel that much more inadequate – at first, well, we must not be applying enough mindless optimism, or else everything would be falling into place; then we begin to realize how ridiculous that optimism is. “Don’t worry, be happy” – clearly, if we’re not happy, we’re not applying ourselves in the right way, not working hard enough at not worrying. If we just smile enough, all of our problems will vanish.

Yeah, right.

The problem with this whole concept of resolutions is that they are doomed to failure. We’re encouraged to set lofty goals, but for the most part, these goals are unrealistic, which means we’re guaranteed not to accomplish them.

Once a year, I’m faced with a similar problem at work – I’m supposed to evaluate myself and set goals for where I want to go in the coming year. Apparently there’s something wrong with being content with where I am; I’m supposed to want to go someplace beyond that. So I fill in the forms with some generic platitudes about professional development and stuff like that, and I hope that said platitudes will be enough for the powers-that-be. This past year, the forms got more specific, and I was supposed to “reflect” on my skills and accomplishments. I wrote a few sentences – enough to fill the space on the form. The form was returned to me, with a note to look up samples of “reflection” online – it turns out that, since this was an electronic form, the size of the blank was not indicative of the length my response should have been; what was really being asked for was more like an essay. I was told that the powers-that-be would let the matter slide, but for the coming year, I had better come up with some deep “reflection.”

I am left wondering, what is wrong with me, that I’m happy where I am? I’m getting mixed messages: Don’t worry, be happy – but you shouldn’t be satisfied with what you have now; you should want something more.

Well, yeah, there are things that would be nice, such as having more financial security. But that’s not what the big resolution thing is about. It’s about wanting to accomplish “something” of importance, to be noticed, to be part of a bigger picture, to be more than ordinary. What the motivational people fail to point out is that only one percent of people can be in the 99th percentile. We’re nearly all going to be ordinary, and to have any wish to be anything other than ordinary is unrealistic.

No, I’m not advocating a life of “quiet desperation” – if anything, I’m arguing against the unrealistic expectations that lead to that feeling of dissatisfaction.

So I’m not making any resolutions this year.

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Blogger Nancy King said...

I greatly enjoyed your...uh... reflection...on writing a reflection on your teaching. Thanks, Carol Anne. I'm not making any resolutions this year either. Happy New Year!


Tue Jan 01, 03:18:00 PM MST  
Blogger Iris Blue said...

Collages and Universities have become more like the public schools in many respects. Reflections. Goals. Plans. Listing of the workshops/trainings you plan to attend to improve on your stated reflection, goals, and plans. Actual skill numbers to list to show that you have covered the skills. Blaine complains when he if forced to do the some of the same things I’ve had to do for years.They call it accountability. There is no academic freedom in upper education anymore. They've dumbed it down. Welcome to my elementary world.

Tue Jan 01, 04:47:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Jerry said...

On new year's eve I was hanging out with friends of friends and the subject of resolutions came up.

"You mean there's nothing you want to improve?" Kim asked me, with a mildly critical tone.

"Sure there are things I want to improve," I said, "but there's nothing I want to resolve."

Wed Jan 02, 10:19:00 AM MST  
Anonymous jerry said...

Another look at resolutions over at Language Log.

Wed Jan 02, 12:59:00 PM MST  
Blogger Pat said...

So, I wonder just how far above average everyone upon reflection is resolved to achieve at the Lake Woebegone School District?

Tue Jan 08, 05:33:00 PM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

And congrats to visitor 29K, a Floridian looking for sailboat launching info.

Sun Jan 13, 06:49:00 AM MST  

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