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Ask Anyone

promises, promises

I have a friend who makes a long list of resolutions every New Year. Without fail, she screws up every one of them by the beginning of February. That’s when the depression sets in. Just when winter is at its coldest and bleakest, she starts beating herself up about this and starts drinking more, smoking more, eating too much, and sinking into her couch at home.

Every year I tell her to just focus on one thing to change. She won’t have it. It has to be an all-or-nothing overhaul of her entire personality. Which I think is impossible, and besides, people like her when she isn’t obsessing over self-perceived faults. Nobody’s perfect, I tell her. But every year, January first sends her off on this personal challenge to change—which inevitably fails. It’s not until late spring that she starts to bounce back to her own likable self. It’s a drag to see her do this to herself, but what can I do to get her to lighten up?

Frustrated Friend

Strictly Classified says: The best way to meet goals is to make them measurable and achievable. It’s also a good idea to set some sort of timetable. With resolutions, it’s also probably a good idea not to bite off more than you can chew (that is, don’t try to lose 20 pounds, quit smoking, and quit drinking all at once).

That being said, if you feel she has serious problems (such as some sort of depressive disorder), you could suggest that she should consult a professional therapist.

The Omniscient One says: You should adopt the exact same list of resolutions as your friend and let her know you’re joining her noble attempt. And then you should fail along with her. Misery loves company. Your friendship will probably be even stronger afterwards.

The Practical Cogitator says: Sounds like you know your friend pretty well. This yearly “all or nothing” ferris wheel cycle certainly needs to be broken.

Perhaps the best way to help your friend is to pick one of her resolutions…and then challenge her to a duel or a friendly competition. For example, if she wants to drink less, you could challenge her to a restricted drinking resolution. Drinks twice a week are acceptable, but any more and you’re slipping into 2011 bad habits. Who can go the longest into 2012 only drinking twice a week? The stakes can be cash or bragging rights. Reducing the alcohol intake will help your friend with her other resolutions also. Less drinking leads to less smoking and lack of hangovers and binge eating the next day. This friendly competition will likely serve you well, too. It’s all about pride. You both can work on your pride issues in 2013.

The Sales Guy says: Well, I think you’re spot on. It’s always better to attempt incremental change, which is easier to focus on. Another benefit is that success breeds enthusiasm and positive attitude. This can motivate you to attempt and achieve more, and attain the total change that you desire.

Smart Money says: What does it matter what resolutions she keeps? You’re both grownups. If she whines about her lack of accomplishments, tell her to shut the eff up and to get it done!

I do think it’s nice that you care.

Dr. Sigmund Fraud says: As a totally self-taught, unlicensed psycho-sex therapist who relies heavily on esoteric and exotic therapies that utilize everything from an antiquated Sanskrit text of the Kama Sutra to a homemade orgone accumulator (fashioned from plans drawn up by Wilhelm Reich himself on the back of an envelope addressed to him from the FDA in 1947), I am looking forward to curing a number of depressed women of the very psycho-sexual maladies you describe as the winter drags on.

It has been my experience that the number of resolutions an individual fails to achieve is directly proportional to the amount of pent-up sexual energy misfiring among the various neurotransmitters. The results are generally as explosive as opening several bottles of champagne at once.

You and your friend should both stop by my office. I’m running a two-for-one special until Mardi Gras.

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