How Are Your Resolutions Going?

We are three weeks in to the new year, a good time to take stock of those New Year’s resolutions. Remember those? The grand pronouncements developed in the twilight of December and delivered on the bright, crisp morning of January 1st?

No doubt many of you had some common themes on your list.  Perhaps you included losing weight as a top goal.  Maybe getting in shape is on there too.  Putting down the smart phone, using facebook less, and turning off the television are probably popular, too.

For many Growler Fills readers, you may have adopted the goal of drinking less, too. I’ve read (but can’t locate at the moment) that alcohol sales plummet in January as people temporarily eat more vegetables and drink more water.

Pete Brown, a British writer and broadcaster on beer and other drinks with alcohol, has an interesting blog post on taking a “dry January.” Reading it gives quite the impression there is an active and frequent scolding from various governmental and nongovernmental groups in Britain to drink less or eliminate alcohol all together – an effort Pete labels the “infantilisation of our culture.”  So strong a push that it creates a desire to rebel against it.

Nevertheless, Pete adopts a dry-January as a means of taking stock in how he approaches alcohol, an occupational hazard for those involved in the industry.  He puts it this way: 

So here’s my New Year’s resolution, which I offer up for anyone else to share: be a grown-up around alcohol, and take responsibility for your own decisions. If you want a drink, have one, and if you don’t, don’t. Going dry for January is my personal way of resetting my relationship with alcohol.

The rest of Pete’s post is well worth a read, too.  Pete is quick to note he isn’t telling you what to do.  What works for him may not work for you.  Heck, what he needs to do may not be something you need to do.  Yet his broader point is well taken.  Do whatever it is you need or desire to do because it is right for you.

I don’t have a list of New Year’s resolutions. I never make them.  I’m not entirely sure why, but it is something more than “just isn’t my thing.”  If pressed, I’d probably say it’s a psychological thing. I rebel against the idea of waiting for new year’s day to get started on something I should be starting now.  Whenever “now” may be.

I do tend to try and lose some weight in January, but that’s coincidental timing as we head into the marathon training season. (I’ll be doing the Missoula Half again. Come join me.)  In fact, I start that effort each year in November to help stave off the effects of the holiday season.  I’m admittedly a little behind this year.

I also reevaluated how much I was drinking starting last summer.  With a cellar and fridge full of beer and a kegerator with two taps of homebrew, it’s far too easy to slip into “drinking too much.”  That phrase is in quotes because it’s sure to have a different definition for each of us.  Dry days are now built into my system, though I have no hard and fast rules.

I also set specific goals for specific events.  For example, going into the Beer Bloggers Conference last July in Boston, I set a goal to avoid hangovers.  I guess that was a clever way of seeking to moderate my alcohol intake – not an easy task at a conference about beer.

I sought to do it for several reasons. In part I wanted (needed?) to prove I could do it in the face of the ultimate temptation. It felt like an opportunity to demonstrate I had that kind of control.  But perhaps more importantly, I had competing goals.  I was spending extended time in Maine and Boston for the first time in my life and I wanted to make the most of it. Hangovers suck. They’re major time wasters.

I was successful not because it was easy, but because I stuck with the determination to keep sight of my goals. All of them. I did not miss out on a single event during the conference or avoid any opportunity to try a new beer. I just played it smarter.  Drank less of each, kept the water flowing and turned in a little earlier at night.

As a result, I was able to get up in the mornings and go for a run – one of my favorite things to do in a new city.  I ran around and through the Old Port District of Portland, ME, taking in the historic structures and old neighborhoods while breathing the fishy, salty air.  In Boston I ran up and over Beacon Hill, around the State House, through the Boston Common, along the Charles River and across the Boston Marathon Finish line only a few months after the bombing.

A hefty hangover would have stripped me of these opportunities leaving me poorer as a result. It’s a lesson I’ve long known, but accomplished only with small pockets of success.

As great as beer is to explore, it has a way of messing with your goals. Be it weight loss, better health, getting in shape, or waking up feeling great on a Saturday morning, beer can play havoc with them all.  By being conscious about all my goals, a few small changes made a big difference.* In a word, it might best be described as finding balance.

I like’s Pete’s resolution: be a grown-up around alcohol, and take responsibility for your own decisions. It’s simple, flexible, and equally applicable to each of us. To it, I’d add this suggestion: take stock of your goals. All of them. If you need to make some changes to meet those goals, make them. If not, don’t. Just don’t ignore the conversation.
* Which is not to suggest I meet them every time. We’re all human.