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Is making New Year's resolutions still a viable option?

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WE just don't make New Year's resolutions the way we used to. Perhaps it's the word ``resolution'' -- so strong, so rigid, so unequivocal. ``Resolution'' has none of that modern flex we favor, with generous, built-in amounts of ``maybe.''

Instead of making New Year's resolutions, we are inclined to draw up lists of options. ``Option'' is a word with elasticity to it. You can change an option. You can even cancel an option. You certainly keep your options open, as opposed to your resolutions, which can close on Jan. 1 like a prison door.

One option for those who wish to avoid resolutions is to draw up an agenda. ``Agenda'' is a nice, civilized, completely erasable word -- the most unresolved word of all. An agenda improves by revision -- that is its nature. One can make the making -- and remaking -- of an agenda one's whole agenda for 1986 and feel nothing but virtuous.

``Resolutions'' is such a sobering word. It wears a frown, like a 19th-century father bending disapprovingly over your shoulder -- expecting the worst.

Resolutions are eye-contact commands, barked at your lazy self by your disciplined -- and unforgiving -- self.

On the other hand, options and agenda come in the shape of friendly questions, delivered with an arm around the shoulder:

``Say buddy, how about getting places on time this year? Just a little more on time. No big deal.''

``Hey, man, have you ever thought of cleaning up the mess under your bed? All those diet soda cans and last summer's sports pages! But don't turn into a neatnik or anything like that.''

Resolutions are not only too authoritarian for our '80s taste, they are too definite:

``Answer your mail.''

``Visit your mother.''

``Brush your teeth.''

This is scary stuff -- stuff you can keep score on.


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