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NOTIONS: Resolutions and predictions: Why bother?

December 25, 2006

Bruce Hetrick is on vacation this week. In his absence, this column, which appeared on Dec. 30, 2002, is being reprinted.

The gym will be rife with resolvers these next few weeks. They'll arrive, eagerbeaver, wearing sweats, headphones and heart monitors purchased as Christmas gifts by relatives hoping to encourage good habits, longer lives and less flab to hold onto in the night.

On all this pricey merchandise, you'll see Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Roots. That way, the resolvers can look themselves in the mirror and find not the overweight, out-of-shape souls they are today, but the svelte, toned Michaels, Madonnas, Britneys and Arnolds they're about to become.

After circling the parking lot for the space nearest the door, they'll hog the lockers, clog the track and commandeer the equipment. Then they'll tie up the trainers, asking how to achieve maximum gain with minimum pain.

Finally, they'll raise their right hands and swear to complete ambitious exercise plans, which will then jam the files, untouched, until December, when they'll be purged to make room for next year's resolvers.

Ah, the always-ambitious resolution! Gonna lose weight. Gonna get in shape. Gonna quit smoking. Gonna find work. Gonna cut spending. Gonna pay off credit cards. Gonna work less. Gonna read more.

So many gonnas. So little time.

During this holiday week, the only things more predictable than rescindable resolutions are Top 10 lists. Nearly every section of virtually every media outlet will have them.

Contrary to popular belief, these lists are not a public service for those contemplating Alzheimer's. They're filler. Little is happening in the world. Journalists want to be with their families, too. But they need content to accompany after-Christmas-sale ads. So instead of telling you something new, they repeat what they've told you before.

Finally, during this celebration/anticipation week, you'll find predictions. The ghosts of Nostradamus and Jeane Dixon will rise up from the snow bank, make their magical way onto the tabloid's front pages, and foresee the demise of celebrities, the arrival of space goblins or the end of the world.

Now, it's not my place to question your resolve, recap what's happened or forecast the future. But I will tell you something I've learned about unrealized resolutions, the halo of hindsight and how they can (and should) affect the best-laid plans.

When I was a high-school senior, I wrote a speech about America's bicentennial. I started off with predictable patriotic praise. Then I recited The Pledge of Allegiance, ending with "liberty and justice for all."

But instead of continuing that celebratory spirit, I stunned the audience. "Liberty and justice, hell," I said, "This nation doesn't need a birthday party. It needs a good hard slap in the face."

I then related the theft of our land from Native Americans, the assassination of presidents, Watergate, racism, environmental destruction, etc.

When I was done, I admitted: "I paint an ugly picture." But, I said, if history is merely hailing heroes and whitewashing mistakes, then we'll produce fewer of the former and more of the latter. During the year now ending, our nation resolved to take out Osama bin Laden, turn the economy around, clean up corporate scandals, depose the Dictator of Baghdad (or leave the Dictator but dismantle his weapons). Simultaneously, we failed to resolve skyrocketing health costs, the ravaging effects of federal fiscal policies on states and cities, and the impact on charities that can't raise enough money to help enough people. So go ahead, drop that gaudy ball in Times Square. Kiss your special someone at midnight. Pop the cork. Sip champagne. Sing about auld lang syne. But when the parade's over in Pasadena and the final gun fired at the Fiesta Bowl, let's look back at the year and make three Top 10 lists: "Did wells" we're proud of, "Shouldn't haves" we regret, "Should haves" we forgot. Then, let's resolve to: Continue what we're proud of, Amend our regrets, Address what (and who) we've forgotten. Finally, let's prognosticate: This world would be a better place if we'd resolve less, deliver more and learn from our mistakes instead of merely listing them. I'll see you at the gym.



Hetrick is president and creative director at Hetrick Communications Inc., a local public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bhetrick@ibj.com.
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