A Gentleman's Guide

JANUARY | 2019

JANUARY | 2019 | FRONT PAGE

RESOLVED

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The arrival of the new year represents a breaking of old habits and the birth of new ones. This is the time of year when we promise ourselves that we’ll finally quit smoking, exercise more consistently, become more organized than we already are and start making plans to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby. The tradition of celebrating the new year with a resolve to either start or stop something is as old as time as history tells us that some of the first people to engage in making New Year resolutions were the Babylonians, who would start the new year off by making a promise to their gods to return all the things they borrowed and to repay old debts. The Romans were no different as they are said that to have made annual promises to Janus, the god of beginnings, endings and doorways and duality.

Even still, the new year’s resolution has been recorded as having had been observed by knights of the medieval, and, of course, by Christians a world over who marked the occasion of the new year with watch night services, a tradition that included reading from scriptures and cracking open that good ole hymnal to belt out songs of praise.  All of this is to say that the tradition of making (and eventually breaking) promises to ourselves dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and is perpetuated every year we struggle watch Mariah Carey and her lip synching antics.

However hopeful any of us are about our resolutions, chances are that many of us aren’t going to see them through, and don’t you dare act like you don’t know what we mean, because going into the gym on Saturday, June 1st, 2019 is going to look a lot different than it did on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019. We’ll have long forgotten about our diet by Wednesday, February 6th, and by Monday, April 15th we’ll realize that we haven’t read half as much as we resolved to back in December. None of this is as abnormal as we might think as more than half of those who make a new year’s resolution won’t keep them for a multitude of reasons. Whether it's because we’ve set the bar beyond our reach (and in some cases, beyond our reality), or because it's something that sounded easier to accomplish than it actually was, we don’t always follow through as intended, and since we’ve all fallen short of the glory of the Lord at one time or another, we’re focusing this month’s Front Page on finding new ways to break old habits to ensure that we stick to our new year’s resolutions better than the hook of a Cardi B song.  

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Lets begin with looking at why we’ve resolved to do the things we’ve resolved to do. Our desire to lose weight might come from a need to live a healthier lifestyle or because we want to increase the attention we receive on our pictures on Instagram (because let’s be real…). Maybe we’ve dedicated ourselves to becoming more organized in life because we’re tired of forgetting where we put our car keys or have missed way too many important events. Perhaps our ambition to fulfil our dreams of traveling and seeing the many sights of the world is governed by the fact that we’re almost forty and have yet to travel outside of our respective city, state or country. Whatever the case may be, we’ve resolved to do better for ourselves, but where many of us often go wrong is by trying to do these things by ourselves. This leads us to our first suggestion.

DON’T BE AN ISLAND

According to John Donne, “No man is an island entire of itself”, and this is a major key when it comes to staying focused on our New Year’s resolutions. One of the reasons why so many of us don’t follow through with our resolutions is because we don’t have anyone to hold our feet to the fire. Enter the accountability partner, the guy or gal who is here to help us stay on track and to call us out in the event that we fall off the wagon. The accountability partner is the one we’ll go to the gym with, and the one who’ll keep us motivated when we start to feel overwhelmed. He is our sounding board, exposes all of our blind spots and gives us the emotional support we’ll need as we struggle to talk ourselves out of ordering that number three from Burger King. He’s our Jiminy Cricket, Grandmother Willow and our Dory. Yes, he’ll get on nerves but if nothing else he’ll hold us accountable at every sneaking turn. Our accountability partners are there to remind us that we are, as Donne wrote, “a piece of the main” and should strive to provide us with perspective and criticism whenever we find ourselves divorced from the very motivation that drove us to wanting to be held accountable.

The title of accountability partner shouldn’t be one so easily bestowed, because we’ll need someone someone who’s as hard on us as black twitter was on Jacquees for proclaiming himself as the king of R&B. Such, we’ll need someone who’ll be brutally honest with us when appropriate and someone who holds the qualities we lack. The optimal accountability partner is as motivated as they are organized, compassionate, tough and, if they’re doing it right, their presence in our lives will sting more than a paper cut thats been doused in hand sanitizer. We might also consider having more than one accountability partner, because the one is almost always the loneliest number and having multiple partners will increase the chances of us meeting the resolutions we’ve set for ourselves.

BE REALISTIC

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While we can all benefit from having an honest accountability partner, the first person we’ve got to be honest with is ourselves. This is a challenge for most because try as we might to convince ourselves that we’re going to be at the gym by 5:30 every morning before work, we need to consider the fact that we’re not a morning person and that going to bed at a decent hour to ensure we can wake up in enough time to accomplish this task has not been our strongest of suits. A huge reason that many of us don’t meet our goals is because we don’t always do a good job at being real about why we want to achieve them or if they’re actually our goals.  Our earlier example of working out to post our post gym bodies is a good example of this, because unless we’re exercising to really get into shape for ourselves, it's not really going to work. Now this depends on our vanity because some of us really do do it for the likes, but we’re not going to pretend that’s everyone’s story.

A good start to being real with ourselves is to evaluate why we want to do the things we want to do, and, in the event that we’ve tried to achieve this specific goal in the past, identifying the things that prevented us from getting it done. Why didn’t we stick to reading that one book a month, or why weren’t we able to stop smoking. If you’ve been keeping up with us for a while, you know we’re huge fans of the why, because it leads us to the root. We can find our through being completely realistic about our goals, because chances are it's not the first time we’ve tried to tackle them.

The more honest we are about the things we want to do, the more in touch we’ll be with the reality of us doing it. Anything else is a set up for failure, so we’ve got to do our best to keep this in mind to avoid falling head over feet into disaster. Doing this will require us to be familiar with our limits and we’ve got to be prepared to experience our limits in the event that we don’t know them. Part of being realistic with ourselves is knowing that we might not succeed, but still being willing enough to risk the fall to fly. This is a great consideration to keep in mind before we rush to the gym to pick up that 30lb weight, because realistically we’ll need to start with the 15lb one, instead.


FORGET THE DESTINATION, FOCUS ON THE JOURNEY

Regardless of what our New Year’s resolutions may be, we’ve got to do our best focus on the journey and not the destination. Breaking bad habits is hard enough as it is because we are literally fighting to not smoke, over eat or to put the toilet seat down after we’re done taking our tinkles. If nothing else, we’re creatures of habit so immediate breaks to these habits aren’t always as productive as we’d like. Why? Because we’re focused on the absence of the habit that we’re working to break. Its as if we expect that something magical will happen overnight and the habit will be broken, and that’s not how it works.

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A better example of this impatience can be found in comparing change with evolution. Change is often quick. Let’s say that we make a cash purchase at, oh, let’s say a Starbucks. We order our ten dollar dragon frappuccino and give the barista a twenty dollar bill. He or she will immediately give us our change, which, in this case will be ten dollars. That’s how fast change happens. Evolution doesn’t work as fast and generally takes more time. People don’t change, they evolve, and that evolution will always take some time. The destination won’t be found in change, because change is a pit stop on our journey, and while it may be where many of us plant our flags, it’s not the destination. The destination can only be reached through evolution. We’ll never be able to shed our dad bods through change, because change is gonna have us in the gym killing ourselves with no results, but through evolving our mindset, eating habits and work out regimens, we can slow make that physical transition from daddy to zaddy. Patience is the key. So before we jump head first into our resolutions, we need to pack a lunch so that we’re prepared for the journey, because that’s where we’re going to learn all the things we’ll need to know to keep us on track. The journey will teach us our limits and our ability to cope, and to overcome adversity. That last part sounds cliche, but trust, there are few adversities greater than overcoming the urge to light up after a stressful day of work.

The New Year’s resolution is a tradition older than Betty White herself, and while we’re free to make resolutions at any point throughout the year, there’s something special about starting a new chapter with new goals to break old habits. Remember that we don’t have to go it alone and can always solicit the help of one or more accountability partners to keep us on track. Yes, creating a new habit is just as hard as breaking an old one, but our accountability partners will (or at least should) help us to overcome our fears, because they keep us from taking action. Our accountability partners should aid us in staying focused and motivated, and while it won’t always be easy, it will always be worth it.

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Setting realistic about our resolutions is probably the most important suggestion we can offer because flimsy grips on reality more often than not, result in flimsier follow- throughs. We’re resolving to do the things we want to do because we desire authentic growth and that starts from within. We know what we’re good at just as much as we know the areas where we can improve, so keeping a firm grip on our respective realities prevents us from setting ourselves up for failure.

Lastly we have got to be patient with ourselves and focus on the fucking journey. FOCUS! If Rome wasn’t built in a day then why do we expect our abs to be? Resolution or not, life is more about arriving than it is striving, which means that the things we learn on the journey are more important than the destination.  It's that one class we took in undergrad that lead us to changing our major, the satisfaction we feel after our consistency at the gym results in us being able to run faster and lift more, and swim faster, and the stories we when we spend more time reading.

More than half of us will not succeed in keeping our New Year’s resolutions for 2019 because we’ve fallen into the trap of setting our hopes higher than Snoop Dogg on at 4:20 on April 20th. We fall short because we don’t have help, aren’t realistic and because we’re unable to see the forest for the trees. However there’s always hope, and just because failure is on the menu doesn’t mean we have to order it. Our goal is to remain as steadfast as possible while knowing that we’re making more than resolutions, we’re making lifestyle changes, and those aren’t always easy.  Old habits, much like the racist perspectives of any Trump supporter, die hard. However, if we learned anything from the 2016 presidential election, its that anything is possible. Our New Year resolutions will do their best to break us, but our job is to ensure that they don’t. We’ll endure the nicotine fits, do our best to make it to the gym at least three times a week and download an app or two to get us started on our road to organization.


We might stumble, and who knows, we might even fall, but the one thing that counters that is getting back up. Getting back up is something we can manage on our own, but it's easier with help, which is why we’ll use this time to remind you that you don’t have to go it alone. Consider going into your new year with an accountability partner. In the event that you don’t have an accountability partner, keep your goals as realistic as possible. Look, you know as good as we do that you can’t go from carnivore to full fledged vegan in a matter of days, but what you can do is to slowly reduce your dependency on meat. We need to be as realistic as possible to ensure that we’re able to do the things we’ve resolved to do.

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Sure, the new six pack will look amazing on Instagram, but think about how amazed you’ll be at the new things your body can do, and if that’s not enough to convince you then think about all the eye candy you’ll be able to indulge yourself in while working to attain those abs. Whatever the case may be, and whatever the resolution is, remember that anything is possible and if you’re serious about whatever you’ve resolved to do, then the suggestions we’ve made are worth the consideration.


Jeremy Carter