So, how are your New Year’s resolutions going?

New Year’s resolutions are bullshit, mostly. Everyone goes to the gym for a few weeks, if that, and by February we’re all back to our same old selves. It’s one of the many things I hate about the holidays, that all that stress and expense and schlepping ends with the renewed knowledge that I suck at my own life.

I’ve made the same resolutions every year for close to a decade. Some have been with me since high school. I no longer make formal resolutions, but every new year that rolls around finds me pondering that same old list, that same old self’s desire for a new self. The old, the new. The familiar, the possible.

Alan Watts pointed out that the phrase “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” originally referred to an action that is obviously, ridiculously impossible. I just googled it, and found an article that traces it back to an old story about Davy Crockett, legendary King of the Wild Frontier, pulling himself over a fence by his bootstraps. Only the America of the 20th century could change the meaning of the phrase into something everyone is supposed to be able to do, or else feel ashamed.

Watts’ point is that self-improvement is like trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. How do you improve yourself, when all you have to work with is … the self that needs improvement?

Yet people do change. It’s not impossible; it’s just really, really hard.  I’ve changed over the years, and I’ve achieved at least some of that change by just chipping away at that crusty old self.


The old patterns that helped us when we needed help, we now have trouble letting go. Some part of us is scared and doesn’t think that change is a good idea. To change the self, to do those things we know are to our long-term benefit, those things we want to have done, those changes in habit that we know will help us be who we want to be – that effort is worth making. But it’s hard.

Most of us are familiar with this struggle. It makes me think of words like resolve. And persistence. And resilience.

That last one is important. You have to be able to fail, and then try again. Over. And over. And over.

This isn’t one of those “Fail better” articles. This is just a cry into the internet wilderness:

It’s hard. I know. Hang in there.

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