Here in the so-called temperate zone, most conventional plans for self-improvement are subverted as soon as the sun goes south for the winter. It's plain foolish to tell yourself you're going to stop overeating at precisely the moment in the year when your body is crying out for a nice, warm, protective layer of fat. Or to promise to start exercising just when the trip to the gym is fraught with ice-glazed danger. Did you decide to learn a new skill or improve your mind? Good luck doing it on one of those short, gray, frigid days that cry out for a long nap. And if your goal is to be more cheerful, well, you can try that while digging out your car. Under the circumstances, the only truly doable commitments are to watch more TV, sit by more fireplaces, buy more blankets, and make more plane reservations.
To propose a serious resolution any time between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox is pure wishful thinking. An act of Sisyphean absurdity. Or duplicity. I used to go running all the time, but I got hurt and laid off for a while. Quite a while, actually. Guess when I started up again. That's right: this past December, with maybe a month before the cold will convince me to abandon the attempt. Very sly move on my part.
The only rational time for this sort of high-minded stuff is spring, when your hope is back, your muscles are ready to uncramp, and the world is saying, Yeah, go ahead. Do it then and you'd have a whole half-year or more in which to get habituated to the new you. And that's exactly why nobody makes their resolutions in the spring. We love tales of renewal, achievement, transformation, and miraculous weight loss—but most of us don't really want to be one. Remember: that archetype of resolution, Ebenezer Scrooge, didn't feel called upon to do a damn thing until the Ghost of Christmas Future showed him his own tombstone.
Read more from Resolution Week: