Now that we’re headlong into the new year and approaching spring, we’re about to begin noticing a very seasonal phenomenon (and no, I don’t mean old men in black socks and sandals telling my kids to get off of their lawn) – something you could call “The Rise and Fall of the New Year’s Resolutioner.” You know the type; you may even BE the type – the person that, on December 31, dives 100% into dieting, learning a new language, finding the Loch Ness monster, etc., tossing everything else in their life aside for this single, solitary aim, believing whole-heartedly that “damn it, this year is the year! I’ll have that six-pack! I’ll go to Europe and not sound like an uncultured American when I ask where the baño is! I’ll finally have Nessie’s head hanging on my wall and the internet will worship me as their king!”
Fast forward two months, and Craigslist and eBay are littered with barely used Bowflexes, Rosetta Stone discs, and sea monster-caliber sonar equipment. What went wrong? Why do so many of us lose those lofty aspirations that we held so near and dear just a few weeks ago, back when we felt like nothing could stop us?
The reality is, there is a sort of hierarchy to goal-setting and making personal change, and many people talk at one level, but their actions show that they’re really at another. These stages are Wishing, Wanting, & Needing to change.
Everybody knows a Wisher. The person who will complain “I’ll never have a body like yours!” while elbow-deep in a Costco-sized package of Double Stuf Oreos covered in maple syrup. The person who hopes to become a famous movie star simply because a talent agent saw them and thought that the way they serve a latte shows “a lot of passion”. The person who aspires to become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams by playing the lottery with the numbers from last night’s fortune cookie.
Tragically, wishing and hoping are about as far as they ever get to succeeding. They never pull themselves together to make that first step – they won’t invest in a gym membership, some acting classes, a financial management book. They’re convinced that magic will happen if they just continue to exist for a little while longer. And wouldn’t you believe it? Nothing. Happens. Ever. You know the saying “good things come to those who wait?” Bullshit. That expression should be “the exact same thing will happen today that happened yesterday to those who wait.”
Next up we have the Wanter. This person will have drawn themselves together to take that first step. They’ve signed up for a gym membership and started a diet, they’ve thrown out all of the junk food in their house, and defriended all of their drinking buddies on Facebook. And things go great… at first. They lose some weight, drop a clothing size or two, and manage to dodge every social gathering possible for the first few months. Everything is going perfect.
And then it happens. “It” could be a lot of things. You overslept your alarm and don’t have time to work out before work today. You get sick and the thought of eating protein turns your stomach. Your 6-year-old niece needs to sell 20 more boxes of Girl Scout cookies to win a trip to Washington, and you’re the last stop on her list. You break your ankle doing the hustle in your brand new size 6 bellbottoms. Whatever “it” is, it means one thing – everything is no longer perfect. And for the Wanter, when things are no longer perfect… watch out, because you’re about to get buried under a pile of excuses longer than Lindsay Lohan’s rap sheet.
“My parents gave me bad genetics, I’m just destined to be this way.” “I’m just so tired all the time and I need at least 3 pounds of carbs a day to operate at my best.” “My trainer told me to workout 4 days a week, but it’s so easy for him to say… he gets to work in a gym all day! He can work out whenever he wants!” (Yes, I overheard you. Yes, the next workout you did was a deliberate punishment for saying something so stupid. No, I don’t feel bad about it.)
Everything is sunshine and roses for the Wanter… until it’s not. Then all bets are off and everything gets tabled until next year.
At the end of our list we have the Needer. This person has placed such a priority on their goal that nothing short of death is going to keep them from reaching it. You may be able to think back in your life and identify a time where you were indeed a Needer – a med student studying all weekend long to graduate at the top of their class while simultaneously holding down a job to pay for bills and schooling; a parent who has been laid off who sends in dozens of applications and goes through 30, 40, maybe 50 rejections before finally landing their next job, because God damn it, if I’m not working, how am I going to feed my family? No amount of failure or rejection will stop the Needer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these people don’t feel the pain of failure. Failing sucks, I don’t care who you are, and if anybody tells you otherwise, they’re lying to your face. The difference is, in spite of the pain and frustration, they remain persistent. They will still have their ups and downs, questioning whether it’s all worth it, but in the end, they will get back up, dust themselves off, and continue to push forward, because they have a deep-rooted, personal desire to achieve something. They’re not doing it because somebody else told them they should, they’re doing it because for them quitting is not an option.
I should also point out that for the Needer type, there is no New Year’s Resolution, because why wait until January 1 to start something that I can start right now? Days on the calendar do not dictate when you let your motivation peak, and today is already here, so why not now?
“If there is one thing I can pass on from my humbling experiences in life, thus far, I will tell you this, the next time someone tells you “the absence of expectations is the absence of disappointment, do not listen. Have expectations. Keep them great. It’ll be a very bumpy ride. You’ll even get bruised, sometimes very badly. Sometimes, you’ll come to an abrupt halt or even fall off your ride. But you’ll grow. And if you do not grow, you do not live.”― Pandora Poikilos