Can you fulfill your New Year's Resolutions without all that pesky work? You bet! Here's how...
Few people are moderate in their New Year's Resolutions. For every American that decides to make one small, positive change – stop eating in front of the television, stop wearing uncomfortable underwear – there are two or three thousand others who binge on commitments that are far too general and therefore doomed to fail: get all hot-looking, read more stuff, stop swearing at fuckwads and their kids. It just feels better to "go big" on resolutions. Inside, we all know that we'll be back to half-assing in less than a week, so why not be happy now imagining that once the clock strikes midnight, everything will change?
Of course, just like shooting tequila the night before a track meet, making overly ambitious New Year's Resolutions can only lead to a shitty run*. People who resolve big tend to fail big, and failure can only make bad habits worse in the New Year. Ninety-eight percent of the time, those who resolve to lose weight end up getting fatter, those who resolve to organize get more cluttered, and those who resolve to learn Spanish end up starving in a Mexican jail, unable to explain to police the really very charming story behind all that blood.
Pursuing instant gratification without regard to future hurt is the essence of addictive behavior, and for resolution junkies, it can be a hard habit to break. Luckily, there is a way to stop! Through my years of research, I have unlocked a perfect way to avoid the painful fallout from New Year's Resolutions – a way to indulge the resolution impulse without suffering the consequences of failure. This may sound impossible, but it's something easily accomplished through what I call Infinity Therapy. Allow me to explain.
Every year, on December 31, I purchase two new planners. One of them I will fill out as the year progresses, writing in my various client appointments, chores and court dates. The other I fill out that very night, in its entirety, with all of the things I have resolved to do in the coming year. I pencil in time at the gym from January through December, being as specific as possible with daily entries such as "weight training," "pilates," and "fifteen mile swim/ski/shoot." Not only do I fill in the things I will do in the New Year (March 12: "begin writing novel"), I also fill in the results of my efforts (March 18: "appear on Oprah, promote finished novel"). One date may read "practice magic tricks," while another reads "bed supermodel, receive Golden Globe." Essentially, I create an entire narrative for my life over the next 12 months in this planner – the story of how I want things to go.
Then, I put the planner away, forget all about the resolutions and get back to just being me.
Do I feel disappointed in myself for not following through? No, I don't. This is where the "infinity" aspect of my therapy comes in. You see, the universe is infinite in age and breadth, with an infinite number of galaxies and worlds dying out and reconstituting over time. Because the universe is infinite – infinitely large, infinitely old and with an infinite future – all possible variations of our planet and its people have existed or will exist somewhere in space and time**. And because of this, somewhere, in one of these many realities, a variation of me exists that has accomplished or will accomplish everything I've listed in my fictional planner. Everything I've written in the planner will indeed get done – just in an alternate Earth that I can't hear, touch or see.
It's comforting to know that this other me is kicking so much ass.
So comforting, in fact, that when I'm feeling particularly down, I pull this other planner out of the cabinet and check in on my alternate reality self, just to remember what I'm up to. Ah, yes – January 3. In my alternate reality, today is the day I snatch a child out of the street right before it's hit by a car, only to discover that this child belongs to a very grateful Russell Crowe. What an adventure!
It also stands to reason that this alternate version of me has his own fictional planner in which he has written all of my activities down. "Ah, yes," he thinks. "January 3. In my alternate reality, today is the day I watch a Law & Order marathon, eat a pound of fried rice, then take a nap. That sounds so relaxing! If only... Hey! What's that kid doing out there in traffic?!"
This, in short, is Infinity Therapy. Knowing that somewhere in time and space, a variation of you is overachieving, and, tired from the effort, envies your laziness.
I should warn you, however, that Infinity Therapy does have a shelf life. At least it did for me. After a few years, I began to get a little jealous of my alternate self. Not all the exercising and studying, mind you – just the luck. I mean, this alternate me never gets sick, never has to have awkward conversations at work... It's kind of bullshit, you know? So, I began filling in my fictional planner with less desirable types of activities – just to knock alternate me down a few pegs. May 4: "Feel anxious for no reason." August 10: "Break down on freeway, have dinner at rest stop with coked-up ex-cons." November 2: "See Hairspray."
This strategy didn't pay off, however, as my real life began quickly going down the tubes as well. More work to do, more clients to see, and demands by my own doctors that I lose weight and stop abusing the pharms. I couldn't understand why everybody was picking on me! Then I suddenly realized – my alternate self was doing it! Writing hateful things in his fictional planner because he was jealous of my sweet, lazy lifestyle. Just like me, he was ruining my life!
So I threw my fictional planner in the fireplace, burned it to ash, and relinquished control of my alternate self's life. That very day, I lost my own planner on my way into the office. It just vanished from the bowling bag in which I carry my things (won't catch me with a man purse), and I knew that my alternate self had freed me from his control as well.
I don't know exactly what my alternate self is up to these days – all those light years away in space and time – but I wish him well, that lucky bastard. I wish him well.
And best wishes to you, too, dear reader. I hope you've learned something today***. Here's to a great New Year for you and all your infinite variations, especially the ones in Mexican jail.
*Note to Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers: the analogy in this sentence is hilarious and freely available for use as a chapter header in your next book. Attribution should read: Dr. Chad Fifer, author/visionary. You can scratch the doctor part if you run out of space or have fact-checkers.
**Originally posited by the rascally British scientist J.B.S. Haldane, one of the founders of population genetics.
***If you did, you owe me money.
More of Chad Fifer's flawless self-help advice can be found here.
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