Chances are that no matter what you resolve to accomplish in the new year, you won't lose weight, will probably keep smoking and it's pretty likely you're not going to stop doing whatever horrible things you've done in the past. Whether you cheat on your spouse, your taxes or your diet, it's implausible to believe that something as arbitrary as the flipping of a calendar will provide enough incentive to make major life changes.
Still, this never stops millions of Americans from making solemn vows to themselves as Dick Clark counts away the final seconds of December 31. Come January 1 we rush out to join gyms, support groups gain many new members and bars, fast food joints and gentlemen's clubs probably experience a brief dip in business.
For most, however, none of these overly ambitious plans amount to much. Even those of us with the best intentions fall back into old habits before the snow has melted, leaving us all more depressed, fatter and decidedly worse off than we were in the previous year.
For 2006, I propose that the entire country make the reasonable resolution to be slightly less of whatever it is that makes them unpleasant. No amount of resolving will make us all into good people who respect their fellow man, so let's stop pretending that can happen and strive for a nationwide slight improvement.
If you're a mass murderer cut back to serial killing. If you're a violent jerk, try just being a regular jerk. Maybe the binge drinkers could become regular alcoholics and the chain smokers could throw in some chewing tobacco every now and then.
Just imagine a world where the insensitive buffoon who talks loudly on his cell phone during the movie switched to whispering. Consider how much more pleasant your life would be if only the waiter who was going to spit in your food, decided to just breathe on it instead.
This philosophy doesn't just work for regular people, it also applies to celebrities. Paris Hilton could resolve to slightly cut down on exotic pets. Lindsay Lohan could limit herself to three hair colors, two major weight fluctuations and a half dozen gossip column hookups with C-list celebrities. Maybe Kathy Griffin could stop talking for just a few minutes and if Ben Affleck would make just one less movie a year, the world would be a better, albeit only slightly, place.
Making major changes and sticking with them takes a resolve very few of us have. If Oprah can't stay in shape, have a fulfilling relationship or stop needing too much attention, what makes any of us think we can?
I've given up on the idea of creating a much better me and I'm certainly not expecting everyone else to deliver a much better world. Instead, I'm planning on hitting the gym a little harder, losing my temper a tad less and being a tiny bit nicer a little more often.
Daniel B. Kline is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. His book "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do" will be released in April.