The primary reason people don’t have much success with their New Year’s resolutions is that New Year’s comes at the wrong time.
See, most of our desire to improve ourselves depends on a concept found in the Chinese proverb suggesting the longest journey begins with a single step. The challenge with the journey to self-improvement is it has to begin with a single step … out of bed.
All right, I know. Rather than an actual step, for some of you getting out of bed involves just a hard roll sideways and hope for the best. But you get the idea.
The problem is, our quest to a brighter, fitter, happier us tends to begin when the initial action required to start this transition is the hardest — when it’s dark and cold and, frankly, no one wants to get out of bed.
Studies have shown this. OK, study. My study. Of me. So, it’s limited, but enlightening. It’s cold and I don’t want to get up because unless my New Year’s resolution is to be cold (and it’s not, never was and never will be), well, not getting up is what’s going to happen. And regardless of my current wretched state, I’m not so upset with it that I want to be cold to fix it.
Yes, I know. It’s entirely possible to accomplish many amazing feats of self-improvement later in the day. But …there’s a thing called “life” that gets in the way. And, frankly, if I had both the time and opportunity to learn to play the glockenspiel at six in the afternoon, I’d have done it by now.
OK, that’s doubtful on a lot of levels but you get the point. The reason you do the things you do and don’t do the things you don’t is, well, that’s the way your schedule both works and collides with other worlds. So, if you want to do something different, with the least amount of world-colliding, you better do it while those other worlds are fast asleep.
So, it’s either get up and improve or stay in bed and be the same old you. But warm. Not a particularly hard choice, especially at pre-dawn, say, the third week in January after the shiny has worn off that resolution.
There is hope. It seems a new wave of fitness has emerged and it doesn’t even involve buying an expensive piece of equipment so you can body-shame your already incredibly fit, fashion model-type wife (seriously, Peloton, what the … ?).
It seems sleep is the new yoga. Without those odd-looking pants. Or any pants at all if that’s your thing, and I’m not judging but a lot of us have kids who roam around at night so that’s not going to work and … I digress.
While I’m encouraged to discover that I don’t have to get out of bed to pursue my fitness goals, I am disheartened when I realize that, because we’re people, we’ve taken a good thing and decided to ruin it.
Welcome to the world of “performance sleep.” Yeah, it’s a thing. Coming soon to the Olympics, where it will be further spoiled by the Russian judge.
Now we are instructed to be “intentional” about sleep (instead of “unintentional,” which is the type of sleep that happens in church, dance recitals, any movie involving Robert Pattinson). We have to use special mattresses, special sheets, special blankets that feel like we’re at the bottom of a mine cave-in but are supposed to make us more secure.
There are even about a thousand apps and devices you’re supposed to wear that will help you measure how much sleep you got, for how long and your R.E.M. (which I used to confuse with Smashing Pumpkins. One more thing I couldn’t have been more wrong about).
Now all of these things are well-intentioned, but having to deal with them and the resultant stress is enough to make you pull the covers over your head and not get up.
However, all of this does give me an opportunity to pursue relentless self-improvement, to strive to be a better me and remake myself as I had always intended to be. All I have to do is buy new mattresses, sheets, pillows, an alarm clock system linked to my phone and an odd wrist doohickey — “sleepwear” — and a journal to record all the data.
Or I can just fall asleep on the sofa watching “Masterpiece.” Beats having to move an entire holiday and, hey, it’s not a nap. It’s me pursuing my dream. Literally and figuratively.
Commentary on 12/27/2019