Specific resolutions


By Scott Robertson

My new year’s resolution is the same as it was last year with a small twist. Last year I wanted to lose 50 pounds during the course of the year. By Father’s Day I had done it. This year I want to lose 50 pounds and keep it off. You see, as the days got shorter in 2017, I packed back on more than a few of the pounds I’d lost in the first half of the year. I netted out okay at the end, but still, I’ll start 2018 (as George Patton called taking back land lost in a previous retreat), “paying for the same real estate twice.”

Resolutions are part of our culture, as we look to every new beginning as a chance to create better versions of ourselves. Most are variations on three common themes: finances, fitness and relationships. Some of my favorites I’ve read or been told about for 2018 include:

Tiger Woods told GolfWeek his resolution is to “pace myself and stay healthy.” This sounds like a man who realizes he is no longer the young turk he once was. Good for him. Many men his age resented Woods early in his career for his savant-like skills and how easily everything seemed to come for him. I think a lot of us root for him to work his way back through adversity.

Our friends at wallethub advised readers to resolve to realize their physical well-being (i.e. their health) is actually a major portion of their fiscal well-being. The average American spends more than $4,600 on health-related purchases every year. That sounds low to me. From ibuprofen and band-aids to exercise equipment and gym memberships to surgeries and ER visits, those costs can add up quickly, sapping your emergency funds in a heartbeat.

One of the most impressively silly resolutions is to spend more time in a hot bath – for weight loss reasons. A doctor named Falkner published research popularized last year that said you burn up to 100 calories an hour sitting in a hot bath. So magazines and websites around the world suddenly jumped on the hot-bath-a-day bandwagon. Showers became “so 2016.” To wildly oversimplify Falkner’s claim, one’s metabolism speeds up in the hot water; more oxygen moves through one’s system and so more calories are burned. Magazine and website article authors then took the next step – since 100 calories is as much as one burns in a brisk walk, taking a bath is as good as taking a brisk walk. Yay! We are guessing these writers were not taking many brisk walks in the first place. Taking a hot bath is not equal to taking a brisk walk. Taking a hot bath does nothing for one’s muscle tone, for instance. But hey, whatever floats your rubber ducky.

I am making one resolution as a writer. I want to be more specific this year. I find lack of specificity to be a source of confusion. It is also a convenient way for less ethical communicators to obfuscate. See also, most members of Congress, presidents, and other politicians with any rank above dogcatcher, 1776-present.

For instance, the top resolution among men in 2018, according to a Marist poll, is to be a better person. That is so general a statement as to mean practically nothing. At least women are specific enough to have their top resolution be to lose weight. That’s measurable. Being a better person? Let’s shoot a little straighter than that, guys.

Because I respect specificity as a tool toward achieving accountability, I’ve resolved to ask myself more often, “What do you really mean?” If I say something is special, for instance, then what makes it special? The answer to that question is what I should really be saying instead of just copping out by saying it’s special. If something is worth saying, it’s worth saying well.


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