Pursuing worthy goals in the New Year

By Joanne Peterson | Jan 16, 2014

I read recently about a woman who lived a whole year without buying any new clothes. Stories abound about people who devote a year to doing something specific – or doing without something specific: attending every local city council meeting; preparing 52 weeks of kale recipes; leaving the car in the garage except to drive to the Park-n-Ride; unplugging the TV; mailing a handwritten note each week to someone who would be delighted to receive it.

I like to read about people’s year-long goals and achievements. I sort of lost interest in the woman who didn’t buy clothes all year at the point she cut off five pairs of jeans already in her closet to make five pairs of jeans shorts, thus making good use of five pairs of jeans she was not wearing.

You might have to read that sentence twice before you figure out that I’m suggesting five pair of jeans shorts is a really high number, and that three of those full-length jeans could have gone to Goodwill.

But someone else’s choice is none of my business. I know a couple of people who wear short pants all year.  Perhaps the lady is another of those people. She possibly needed all those whacked-off jeans.  And it was admirable that she wore what she already owned, rather than buying anything new all year. So perhaps I owe her an apology.

Remember that guy who ate at Subway all year and lost a significant amount of weight? And remember the woman who ate all her meals at Starbucks, losing significant weight and money at the same time, all the while enjoying the experience?

If I would actually make a choice to do—or not do—something for a year, I wonder whether I would tell anybody. There’s always that hideous lurking fear of failure.

What if I decided that in 2014, I’d read a book every week?  (My friend Suzy read 76 books in 2013. She does not waste nearly as much time as I do.) Or what if I stopped buying clothes for my grandchildren to grow into? (I hear my daughter’s voice imploring: “Mom! STOP! No more raincoats!”) What if I spent a year without picking up any magazine but the New Yorker? Or set a timer by my computer every time I opened email—and quit after 30 minutes?

I like the idea of committing to doing something specific – or doing without something specific – for an extended period of time, accepting the challenge with determination and self-discipline. And I especially like the idea of using freed-up  resources and energy  to accomplish positive lasting change.

Just think, what if I decided that every time (or almost every time!) I wanted to order dessert in 2014, I’d instead add $5 to an envelope to donate at year’s end—you guessed it—to the local food bank? And what if I challenged you to do the same thing?

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