Happy New Year, Red Shtickers! 2015 is up and running, and I just know all of you are chomping at the bit with the drive to attack the upcoming year and become the person you always knew you could be.
Let me save you the frustration you’ll feel in two weeks, right before you give up: Go ahead and stick a fork in that idea right now. You are not going to change this year.
Right now, what with the old annual odometer having flipped over, you feel super rejuvenated and ready for change. There is a sense within you that this time, it’s really going to stick. But it won’t.
Future you is going to Five Guys because bacon cheeseburgers and cherry Coke are the things your fat ass desperately craves every second of the day.
The reason it won’t is a little thing called “present bias.” That is, the current you is going to go to the store and buy a bunch of kale, carrot juice, soy milk, and wheat grass, figuring that future you is going to go crazy for the stuff for some reason. Then, it’s all going to rot in your fridge because future you doesn’t like that crap any more than current you does. Finally, future you is going to Five Guys because bacon cheeseburgers and cherry Coke are the things your fat ass desperately craves every second of the day.
New Year’s resolutions almost always fail because the people who make them aim too high. There are ways to approach the most common resolutions that, in time, will lead to lifestyle changes that may give you the results you really want. Follow me down the list of the most popular resolutions, compiled by USA.gov, and let’s find a way to get you there together.
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Quit Smoking. You want to look tough and quit cold turkey. Don’t do that. You need nicotine lozenges/gum to give your mouth something to do along with just enough nicotine to take off the edge. Don’t substitute “vaping” for smokes. Despite what the idiot hipster blowing a cloud of blueberry-scented fog in your face tells you, e-cigs aren’t just as safe as the gum and will allow you to continue an action similar enough to smoking that you’ll allow yourself the occasional cheat when out at a bar or drinking with friends.
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Lose Weight. Don’t get a gym membership. Don’t buy a treadmill. Don’t order P90X. Jumping in with a step that massive will lead to you giving up because it’s too hard or quitting because of injury. Go for a walk after dinner. It doesn’t have to be a long walk; just take a walk. Do this every day. Every day. Every. Day. If it’s cold, put on a coat. It it’s raining, take an umbrella. By the time the summer rolls around, you’ll think about taking that walk around the lakes. The little bit of joy you’ll get from your daily walk will be enough to motivate the rest of the changes you need to be down 10-20 pounds this time next year and actually keep it off, because you’ll have moved a little farther away from the sedentary habits that make you feel so out of shape.
Keep the 40s in an ice chest in your back seat and hand them out to panhandlers standing at stop lights and holding signs full of empty promises.
PISCES (Feb. 19-Mar. 20): Volunteer. There are tons of opportunities to volunteer your time and abilities every day if you so choose. The key is motivating yourself to take the time to type “volunteer Baton Rouge” into your search bar. The motivation you need is the feeling of having done something for someone else that made them happy, and before you get to the point where you watch that troubled teen you helped tutor through high school every day after work finally get his diploma, you’re going to need to start with something simple, instantly gratifying, and with guaranteed results. This is going to sound cynical, but trust me. Take $20 to the gas station and buy as many 40 oz. malt liquors as it’ll get you (the amount will amaze you and require a couple of trips out to the car). Keep the 40s in an ice chest in your back seat and hand them out to panhandlers standing at stop lights and holding signs full of empty promises. They may be tentative about taking them and even pretend not to be interested, but once they grab them from your outstretched hand, their joy will be palpable and fill your heart with enough warmth to finally take that next step.
ARIES (Mar. 21-Apr. 19): Get a Better Education. First, ask yourself what it is you want to achieve education-wise. Do you want a basic degree from a four-year program? Do you want to enhance your understanding of the world around you? Do you need an advanced degree for career growth? Do you want people on Facebook to think you’re a smarty pants who isn’t letting life pass him by even though he has a minivan and three kids? Lucky for you, opportunities for all these things exist right here in town. LSU has a number of courses you can take via correspondence or night classes. BRCC is also a surprisingly impressive resource for continuing one’s education. Don’t let the “community college” stereotype fool you. But a great place to start if you’re not sure what you want other than “to get your learn on” is with a leisure class via LSU’s leisure program or the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. See if you’re able to motivate yourself to finish one little class “for fun” before you block out the next four years of your life in pursuit of that oh-so-useful B.A. in art history.
If you are folding pants at Old Navy today, you’re not going to be magically founding your own clothing line tomorrow.
TAURUS (Apr. 20-May 20): Get a Better Job. Kevin Smith made his first film, Clerks, by going into heavy debt on his American Express card. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. J.K. Rowling lived in relative poverty while writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. You are none of these people. Look at what you can do, want to do, and can learn to do. Be realistic. If you are folding pants at Old Navy today, you’re not going to be magically founding your own clothing line tomorrow. But there are steps you can take in that direction. Most importantly, don’t quit your job before finding another one. While that makes for a great story in a biography or a Lifetime movie, it’s not the smartest thing to do. Plus, having a source of income while pursuing another career will give you the luxury of being picky about your next step.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Save Money. Ideally, the best way to go about this is to set up a savings account at your bank and schedule automated deposits of as little as $20 per paycheck. You won’t even notice it. But if you’re too lazy to go through with all that work (it’ll take you your lunch hour, at most), then give the 52-week money challenge a try. The concept is simple: Get a jar, put $1 in it the first week of the year, $2 the second, and so on. By week 52, you’ll have socked away $1,378 with minimal effort. That is, if you can keep from raiding your jar for a year.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): Take a Trip. If you aren’t a big traveler but long to see the world, the two things holding you back are most likely time and money. Slake your wanderlust with a quick weekend trip to Houston (far enough away to feel like an adventure and home to several fantastic museums) or, much closer to home, Covington. Book a room at one of the many affordable hotels from Friday night to Sunday morning, send the kids to Grandma’s, and drive an hour away after work one week. Spend Saturday walking around Covington’s “downtown,” tour a couple of breweries, and eat somewhere with cloth napkins. Spend Saturday night planning a trip to somewhere more exotic before you end up back in the weekly grind of life. That feeling will motivate you to go through with the big steps you need to take that trip to the Mediterranean, Bora Bora, Paris, Japan, or wherever else you dream of waking up.
It’s OK not to drink, even in Louisiana. Don’t make a production of it unless you are starved for attention or just want people to pat you on the back at every now awkward social occasion.
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Drink Less Alcohol. Once again, ask yourself why you want to drink less. Are you tired of hangovers every morning? Is it affecting your health or social life? Have family or friends talked to you about your drinking? If the answer is yes, then you may want to consider seeking counseling for alcoholism. Whether or not you consider a 12-step program is up to you, but the recidivism rates are notoriously as high as spontaneous recovery. On the other hand, maybe you’ve just become tired of bars or drinking in general. Guess what? It’s OK not to drink, even in Louisiana. Don’t make a production of it unless you are starved for attention or just want people to pat you on the back at every now awkward social occasion. Instead, offer to be the designated driver. It’ll give you an excuse not to drink while earning the gratitude of all your friends. Also, mention that you’re the designated driver to the bartender. When I tended bar, I always slipped DDs as many free Cokes as they wanted, and most bars like to seem responsible enough to encourage designated drivers via a nickel’s worth of carbonated sugar water.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Manage Stress. Positive outlets for stress: exercise, hobbies, meditation, religion to a certain degree, time in the company of friends. Negative outlets for stress: drugs, alcohol, random sexual encounters, violence, shoplifting, cutting. Look at your schedule and see if anything can be cut or rearranged to allow for 15-45 minutes of time for yourself each day to take a deep breath and think about one thing only. I understand this can sound like an impossible concept for parents, but that’s why pet carriers come in so many different sizes.
LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Manage Debt. Are you in all kinds of crazy debt?! Do you need money right now to pay off a loan?! We got you covered like hash browns at the Waffle House! Seriously, though, stay away from anyone who yells promises of debt relief at you. Managing debt isn’t difficult, and there are plenty of reputable institutions for helping you handle it that don’t involve getting into further debt that you’ll never get out of because of criminally high interest rates. That is the second worst thing you can do about it. The first is nothing. I have a friend who recently got out from under $30,000 worth of debt through Consumer Credit Counseling, a free service that helps consolidate your debt into one monthly payment. It didn’t happen overnight, but having all the debts in one place took away a lot of the stress of it all.
The first step is ignoring the allure of the clown and king. And Jared. That guy is full of crap.
SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Eat Healthy Food. Start with the obvious decisions, the ones you know you need to make but pretend you don’t. Avoid places with paper napkins. Quit buying sodas. Bring your lunch instead of buying it. Get into the habit of providing food for yourself, and you’ll learn not only how to pick healthier food but also how to budget your grocery inventory over time. Last night’s roast is not just tomorrow’s po-boy but also next week’s beef pot pie with the help of surprisingly easy online recipe guides and a couple of inexpensive ingredients. Think outside of the single meal and, suddenly, one healthy meal becomes three you barely have to think about. But the first step is ignoring the allure of the clown and king. And Jared. That guy is full of crap.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Recycle. Really? I can’t believe this is even on the list. Someone in the government stuck it on the list to make us think it’s something a ton of people worry about. You have a recycling bin; use it. If that’s not enough for you, visit brgov.com/recycle to learn about whatever mystery of recycling you’re having trouble getting your head around.