Monday, January 3, 2011

Why New Year Resolutions are Necessary Failures for People With Parkinson's Disease and Others

As with many others, I struggle with making New Year resolutions. It was not always so. At one time, pre-Parkinson's disease, I was very organized about planning what I wanted to accomplish each year. But lately I have joined the ranks of those who shun the practice of making promises as the calendar flips a digit (so to speak). Despite the fact that people with Parkinson’s have a hard time predicting how the degenerative disease will limit their abilities, that is not the reason. I decided to come clean on my own reasons, to the extent that I have discerned my own motivation, or lack thereof. I am going one step further. I will bare all (well, not all) and post some of my resolutions here for all to see, for reasons I will set out below.

New Year resolutions are typically worthwhile goals. Take for instance U.S. President Obama's resolution last year to stop smoking. Yet many, if not most, of us either forego the opportunity or engage in setting goals knowing full well we will fail. Some people even scoff at the tradition. Most do not announce their personal resolutions to anyone. Despite my usual positive outlook, I too find it difficult these days to commit to a list of annual resolutions. Why? One reason might be that the statistics are against you. About 50% of people polled made resolutions last year, and yet only 25% achieved success.
Some might say it is just laziness. However, let me suggest that fear might be the real enemy of resolve. Laziness, as the entrepreneur, blogging guru, Seth Godin, said, is fear. We (that pronoun includes me) seem to fear commitment to change, regardless of how beneficial that change might be. We fear failure and our own lack of discipline necessary to achieve success. We fear that the stark reality of our lack of desire to change will be made known, that our frail humanity will be exposed for what it is. We fear the judgment (express, implicit or imagined) of others or ourselves. Fear is the foil of good intentions, thus discarding them like cobblestones with which the road to hell, or at least one’s unrealized potential, is often paved.
I was reminded by the January 1 passing of a dear, faithful reader of this blog that life is precious and dare not be wasted. Whatever your spiritual views may be, we all somehow know that life is to be cherished not squandered. We recognize that we are gifted with a few years of living in order to make the best of them. Our clocks point out the minutes we have used up. Our hearts beat out the rhythm of a song that will end some day. Each breath signals another moment’s passing. We understand all that and yet we fear living intentionally. We avoid full commitment to a plan that would see our time and talents spent in a worthy manner. We so often choose to live randomly except for the hard-wired stuff like sleeping and eating.

We need to have the courage of our convictions and throw off cowardice, the offspring of fear. We must commit to those dreams that dwell in hidden places within our hearts. We have to recognize our need for strength and encouragement beyond ourselves. We would best acknowledge we are prone to fail, give up or lose our resolve so that we might recognize our need for the resources that friends and family can provide. I cannot help but believe that if we all made at least one New Year resolution, and shared that with someone who was committed to helping each of us to accomplish that goal, we would all be happier and more likely to live intentionally.
So here goes my experiment. Sharing my New Year resolutions (or at least some of them) with you who may read this, with the belief that in doing so I can more likely achieve them.

1. I will post written encouragement on Positively Parkinson’s at least two times each week during 2011.
2. I will prepare the necessary manuscript material for a Positively Parkinson’s book proposal to be considered for publication, and submit that material to publishers before the end of 2011.
3. I will exercise at least 3 times a week to offset the stiffness and inflexibility resulting from my Parkinson’s disease.
4. I will spend at least 15 minutes each day in quietness.

Now all I need is discipline, encouragement and the support of others to make up for my human fallibility. What about you? Especially those who face a future threatened by PD or some other challenge, what will you commit to? Despite the odds, are you prepared to commit out loud to a New Year resolution? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”


  1. Hi there - Your blog is great - very inspirational and thought-provoking. My wife was diagnosed a few years ago while in her late 30s and I've just recently discovered this site. Best of luck to you and your 2011 resolutions. I look forward to your book!

  2. Yes! Again, you have articulated what I've been trying to get the words to say. There is no real "laziness", only fear. Fear of failure, to be exact. As Frank Herbert wrote in his wonderful book, "Dune":

    "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

    Now, I don't do New Year's resolutions; I've always thought that they set you up for failure. However, I think that this time, you have given me a goal. I resolve to do at least one thing this year which is out of my "comfort zone". I will feel fear, but I will do it anyway.

    Thanks for keeping up this great blog, and Happy New Year!

  3. Wow, what great encouragement. It has been a tough beginning to a year that stretches ahead with what threatens to be a lot of valleys in coming the days. I worried about this blog not communicating well, but it hit a record high for the past 12 months and 2nd over all. Let's see...what have I learned? Take more risks? Trust instinct? Just be who you are. Reality is where we all need to live, comments or no comments. Entrust your sincerity to the reader because you can't fake it for long anyway.

  4. My dealings with people who do not understand Parkinsons parrelles yours it seems like. I love your writing style and how your able to deliver your message. My style is more like a techie which I am.
    The reason I writing is I would like to talk to you about your upcoming book and about an idea I haved to collect PD relationship and emotion stories into a book and used it as a sekf help guide.

  5. Bob, I just ran across your blog after seeing a reference to it on another blog I read, recentlydiagnosedwithpd. I am glad I found it and am pleased to see that one of your resolutions is to make weekly postings to the blog. I was also diagnosed with PD at the age of 53 almost a year ago and find blogs by PWP to be very informative and inspirational. Keep up the good work.

  6. John and Appleseed;

    Thanks for your comments. I am committed to posting 2x per week as I know that I need the encouragement and discipline. Your comments keep me motivated.

    My book project is in its infancy and is quite different than what you envisage Appleseed, but I am more than happy to discuss things with you. Call anytime (number available by emailing me).


  7. I'm readingn a book right now by Ted Dekker about a world 500 years after chaos, the fall of the US and Russian's power. Now the capital of the world is Byzantium located in old Rome. The people's blood has been changed to where they only have one emotion left: fear!! Fear is the reason for everything they do. there is no love, passion, rage, hate, jeolousy, joy, ecstacy. Just Fear.

    For Marian: one test tube of the original blood is left and 4 or 5 people share it and for the first time they find physical attraction, compassion, rage, even grief, and they say for the first time in their lives they feel alive. So banish the fear if you can, and if not, grab hold of the other emotions that you can enjoy.