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AUSTIN EDITION COL Unfortunately, resolutions take resolve

The Christmas tree in my house came down this week with significantly less fanfare than that with which it went up.

I hate to sound Scroogie, but I, for one, was happy to see it go; happy to get my living room back in order and happy to have vacuumed up the last of those pesky needles.

My daughter was considerably less thrilled about it, tearfully giving the tree a hug as I hauled it toward the door en route to the boulevard where it would sit and await transport to its final resting place.

Is it just me or did Christmas 2005 come and go faster than Ashlee Simpson's singing career? It seems like just yesterday that it was September and the stores were just beginning to subtly sneak in a Christmas tune here and there.

Yet, in the blink of an eye, gone for another year is the Christmas season, and though there will be no shortage of those hangers-on who still plug in their Christmas lights well into February, we realists know it's time to let go and turn our attention to Dick Clark and another dropping of the ball in Times Square.

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That means, besides a little more job security for history teachers, another round of New Year's resolutions for many of us.

As it does every year, the arrival of Jan. 1 will mean a lot of people attempting to quit a bad habit, start a good habit or, in my case, simply trying to get back to the good habit of running, which I inexcusably abandoned during those gluttonous couple of weeks leading up to Christmas.

People come up with different resolutions for different reasons (one being gluttony), and most involve a lifestyle change. We stop smoking, start exercising and eating healthy, try to lose weight, get a better job, save more money, etc.

One guy I know has even vowed to stop swearing. I'll be watching that one with a great deal of interest, because this guy drops enough f-bombs to make an angry sailor blush.

Anyway, the trouble is, for an assortment of different reasons, by the time college football's national champion is decided, most of us aren't so resolute with our resolutions anymore. We often find that vowing to do something and actually doing it are birds of two entirely different colors, and only about 20 percent of us succeed.

When I resolved to quit smoking on Jan. 1, 2002, I was smoking by sunset. I simply wasn't ready, so my plan was derailed for about a month. I think that's why a lot of people fail with their resolutions; they aren't prepared mentally when the big day comes.

Success didn't come for me until I got up, brushed myself off, hacked up a lung and targeted Feb. 4 as an alternate date. I haven't looked back since. The difference was I was ready that time. That and the fact that I told people about my resolution that time around.

I had had my resolution failures in the past, and I had come to the conclusion that the worst thing about not being able to carry through with a resolution is everybody else knowing that I failed, so I started to keep my resolutions to myself. That way I didn't have to explain myself to anybody if I failed. I've since decided that's a bunch of baloney.

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If you tell everybody you know that you intend to quit or start something, now you have a pretty large support group. Combine that with a strong resolve, and you've got a good start. The rest is mind over matter.

I know all this is easier said than done, but I just wanted to share what worked for me, because I know there are going to be a lot of people second-guessing their resolve by about noon Monday.

Hang in there. Lifestyle changes aren't easy. Remember why you wanted to make that change, and good luck.

As far as the person who has vowed to stop swearing, you know who you are, and I wish you all the luck in the world. You're certainly going to need it. I just hope resolve and a support group are enough to stop the bombs from falling.

Jeff Reinartz is a freelance writer and lifelong Austin resident.

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