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Resolutions Resolved

You should be ashamed of yourself. 2012 is already here, and you still haven’t made your New Year’s resolutions. Obviously, you need to hurry. How can you break a passel of resolutions if you’ve never make any in the first place?

Of course, being a perfect human being, you may feel you really don’t need to make any resolutions. After all, 2011s “try to share my genius with others less brilliant than me,” resolution really didn’t pan out. Alternately, you could adopt the technique described by Elizabeth Bernstein in “The Wall Street Journal” and do what caring corporations do — outsource the job.

It makes sense. As Bernstein writes, “who better to tell us how to improve ourselves than someone who knows us well — perhaps better than we know ourselves — and even may be all too happy to offer up some tough love.”

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If looking for an “all too happy” provider of tough-love, I suggest you avoid your manager. The person you ask should find you only slightly flawed and eminently fixable. Unless you want to declare open season on your headcount, don’t open a floodgate of resolutions from someone who could instantly spew out a dozen ways you could be a better human being.

This leaves our loved ones as the preferred sources for resolutions. “We all have blind spots, but the people we are intimate with can see them,” is the quotable quote Bernstein extracts from couples therapist and psychology professor, David Palmiter. And, in fact, the article does include a case history of a couple that did provide each other’s New Year’s resolutions and lived to tell the tale.

Basically, he was told by she to start eating healthy, start a new business and stop hanging around the house. “Get out of my hair,” were the loving, constructive words of that final resolution. When it was he who had to provide resolutions to she, the husband proved he was a master of marriage dynamics. His resolutions included “Be more adventurous” and “Stop criticizing yourself so much.” (Personally, I would have added, “Resolve to treat yourself to more costly spa treatments, since you so clearly deserve the very best in life,” but, then again, I’ve been married for a long, long time.

Another case history in the article limned the tale of Karen Platt who, “tired of making the same New Year’s resolutions year after year,” requested a batch of resolutions from her 12-year-old son, Ben. I’m not suggesting that you run your life based on the wisdom of a 12 year old, but, let’s face it, he probably will be better at it than you.

If you don’t have any close friends that you can ask for help with your resolutions and you don’t want to provide any additional opportunities for criticism from your loved ones, I’m happy to offer my services. Though I would hardly call us “intimate,” I definitely know you better than you know yourself. Climb out from under the bed, and let’s get this resolution issue resolved:

Resolution No. 1: Work less.
I know it’s difficult to imagine working any less than you currently do, but give it a try. Let’s see how little you can actually do before your manager notices. There could be dozens of hours in the week you could be devoting to Angry Birds, which you are currently wasting being productive.

Resolution No. 2: Make more mistakes.
Management gurus are always blabbing about how we need the freedom to make mistakes. Sure, you’ve made some major blunders in the past, but with a little effort, you could probably create a real catastrophe, and wouldn’t that be fun?

Resolution No. 3: Think inside the box.
The ideas that get “in the box” may be stinkers, but no one is going to fire you for doing business as usual. Besides, it’s cold, lonely and dangerous outside the box. This is no time to take chances. Get into the box, and pull the box top down over you.

Bernstein’s column concludes with tips for smoothing over any residual rage that can come from telling someone they are total losers who have no idea how to live their lives. “Start with a gratitude letter,” says psychologist Palmiter. “Tell the other person what you appreciate about them.”

So, let me just say that I truly value our non-intimate relationship, and I deeply appreciate all the help you will so desperately require from me in 2012. No need to say “thanks.” Just send money.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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