24 December 2010


The season for New Year’s resolutions is upon us. Personally I find it fascinating that roughly 80% of people who make such a promise to themselves are unable to keep it. This means that most of us are utterly unable to control our own behavior. Holy cow, that’s remarkable. That’s right up there with being mortal as far as Life’s Biggest Problems are concerned.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be a glowing exemplar of self-discipline. I’m a member of the out-of-control majority. My language projects, my investment portfolio, my physical fitness all resemble New Orleans shortly after Katrina blew through. Even the vehicle I drive has articles of clothing, bits of incoming mail, and various sundry objects randomly scattered throughout. I’m a mess.

I would like the coming year to be more successful as far as doing what Part A of me wants to do, instead of doing what Part B wants to do (which is mostly endless web-surfing and spending all of our wages on stuff from Amazon). So I’ve been reading up on the art of making and keeping resolutions.

Naturally Part B bought a book from Amazon on the topic (This Year I Will by M.J. Ryan) The book discusses the fact that many people give up on a project during “the awkward phase.” Learning a language or taking up a musical instrument, for example, will involve an initial period of being incompetent. This is rather discouraging. Perhaps it will be less daunting if one knows in advance that it is going to happen and accepts that.

(I wonder if being especially sensitive about “the awkward phase” of language learning might be what drives some people to advocate very simple constructed auxlangs.)

Another pitfall which derails many people is failing to deal with the first slip-ups intelligently. If you vow to learn three kanji every day or translate a kilobyte of the Tipitaka into your conlang every week, you need to be ready for those times when you fail to keep your promise to yourself. Don’t turn slip-ups into give-ups, says the book.

A bit of googling will turn up numerous online articles about succeeding or failing with resolutions. A study conducted at the University of Hertfordshire yielded the following results: the success rate for resolutions is highest for those who use these five techniques…

1) break the larger goal into smaller steps
2) reward yourself after performing each one of the steps
3) tell your friends about your goals
4) focus on the benefits of success
5) keep a record of your progress

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