New year is a graveyard for half-baked resolutions

TIDYING up after Christmas, I was attacked by several metres of brown paper that sprang from a desk drawer to bury me in unmet goals.

The paper contained lists, averaging 1.5 metres long, all presumptuously titled THE PLAN and issued every three to six months since I began work as a journalist four years ago.

I'm very big on making plans.

And, where work is concerned at least, I'm not that bad at keeping them.

But there's one genre of plan- making where I fail completely.

Today, being New Year's Eve, is the day most of us are overwhelmed by our own untapped potential and dutifully write down, in essence, how to be a person that we hate slightly less next year.

You know, a person who is less fat or more fit or less broke or less likely to die of lung cancer.

This is a very bad idea.

Not only is it unlikely to stick - only about one in five people who make resolutions will keep them, according to the internet - but listing all the things you are bad at is a particularly depressing way to ring in a new year.

It is even more depressing when, three weeks in, you waste a whole potentially perfect year by failing miserably and have to wait until next New Year's Eve to start again because, like a diet that always starts on Monday, changing the habits of a lifetime apparently requires a completely unblemished calendar to tackle.

Fortunately, resolve is not a finite resource distributed on January 1 each year and those who do slip up are much more likely to later achieve that goal if they set out to do it not at some arbitrary pre-determined date but at whatever time is the right time to do that thing.

Still I persist, because it is stupid that a promise made to myself on this particular day should be doomed to failure when the same promise made a week later would be perfectly fine.

Last year, in an effort to build my confidence up, I decided to keep it small. I resolved not to buy any new books until I'd read all the books I'd already got. It lasted until the following Saturday when I bought three books, two of which I'm still yet to read.

This year I'm trying a different tack and, abandoning my habitual inward gaze, resolve to be generous.

More specifically, I resolve that for every dollar I spend on non- essential items for myself, I will donate a dollar to charity.

Defining "non-essential" has proved a bit tricky.

Some level of clothing is generally required in polite society so I probably won't count the basics.

Vintage dresses and inadvisable 1980s polyester shirts of the type that made Carlton look like a neon pirate when he tried to dress hip like Will on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, however, are probably not essential. So when I buy them - and I will - it's $6 to the local Vinnies and $6 to charity.

Eating or drinking out is more difficult. I do not need to go to the pub. I do not need to go out for coffee. So at the risk of being broke or boring, coffee and booze go on the list.

Add to that books, movies, music and flowers.

On past spending rates, I should end up giving almost 10 per cent of my salary away.

Given that I can't afford to do that, the hope is this resolution will achieve the contradictory goals of 1). encouraging me to think twice before reaching for my wallet, thus encouraging me to consume less; and 2). ensuring that someone deserving benefits when I do inevitably buy more 1980s polyester shirts and unread books.

The charity I've chosen is Save the Children, which, among other work, runs a state-funded program to help detainees from Ashley Detention Centre rehabilitate and reconnect with education.

Not a bad way to spend 2014.

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