Pledge Week: New Year’s Resolutions, Solved

About half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but almost all of those self-promises wind up broken, in most cases within a week. So the research shows.

Believe me, I know. Every December for decades now, I’ve made a long list of New Year’s resolutions.

For example, I vow to increase the size of my personal comfort zone, currently only two square feet, 32% smaller than the national average.

I also swear to apologize to everyone I’ve ever offended, an even longer list.

Where I generally get with these annual resolutions is precisely nowhere. Fast.

Invariably, my comfort zone actually shrinks each year, like the ratio of land to water in Venice.

The people I phone to apologize to often hang up on me before I can even say I’m sorry.

Every year, too, my resolutions grow more grandiose than practical. Last year, for instance, I vowed to get rid of all my emotional baggage. I’d accumulated so much of it, all stuffed in boxes and suitcases and duffel bags, without ever quite realizing how much space it took up in our apartment. I also promised to find out where my time goes – just track it down once and for all, see whether it’s two-timing me at a bar around the corner and with whom.

Among the few resolutions I’ve kept was actually what you might call a reverse resolution, or anti-resolution. I commited to do less of what is supposedly good for me and more of what is supposedly bad for me. I conducted this experiment in the understanding that something supposedly bad for me – a second glass of merlot, say, or a thicker-than-usual wedge of pumpkin pecan pie – might actually be quite good for me. I based this innovation on the premise that every vice, by its very nature, has its virtues – and that it’s hard to go wrong replacing some strenuous self-improvement with a little harmless self-corruption. As it turns out, I’m much better at softening my resolve than stiffening it.

But the very best resolution I made in recent years was to keep handwritten journals for our children, Michael and Caroline. (By the way, feel free to “Take The Pledge” displayed on the home page above to write letters to your kids). After all, those journals turned into the blog you’re reading now.

Now let me tell you how I did it.

P.S. — Part 4 will appear tomorrow.

P.S.S. – I invite all of you to contribute a guest blog, “Why I Took The Pledge” – a short essay about what you plan to tell your kids in 2011, along with your bio and a family photo. To volunteer, just e-mail me at

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