I think most resolutions fail because they are either resolutions about things out of your control, or they are so vague as to be meaningless. These kinds of resolutions aren't so much guides for our future behavior as they are wish-lists for the coming year. For an example of the first, many people will resolve something like, "I resolve to lose 15 pounds this year." A nice idea, but you have no direct control over whether you lose weight or not. For example, I've run 5k three times per week for the past 6 months, and I've lost only 10 lbs.* The losing of weight is the desired result, not really the thing you can control. Instead, I think people should resolve to do things that they CAN control. Also, too many are things are are so vague, the commitment cannot be measured in any meaningful way. An example of this would be something like, "I resolve to improve my relationship with my spouse" -- again, a nice sentiment, but HOW? Here are a few examples of what I think are self-defeating resolutions, followed by what I think would be a better version:
I will lose weight vs. I will visit the gym three times per week
I will eat healthy vs. I will eat two servings of fruit and veggies at each meal
I will improve my relationship with my spouse vs. I will go on at least one date night per month with my spouse
I will spend more time with my kids vs. I will volunteer to be assistant coach of the tee-ball team
I will publish two articles vs. I will submit two new articles for publication
I will be a better teacher vs. I will completely re-vamp my syllabus for this class
I will be a better researcher vs. I will apply for at least one grant this year
Get the idea? Whenever possible, you should first decide what your goal is, then think of a realistic and concrete step that will bring you closer to that goal.
So, what about me? I'm resolving quite a few things, but most of them don't have anything to do with medievalism. A few of them, however, do, and so I give you here my medieval resolutions for 2008, in the hope that you Wordhoarders can encourage/chastize me to keep them as needed.
- I resolve to organize at least one popular medieval event on campus. The Big Beowulf Bash was a huge success, enough so that I think we wouldn't even need a film to make such an event work. I know the nearby SCA group wants to come do a weapons demonstration, so that's what I'll likely organize.
- I resolve to submit a request for a Selected Topics course on learning Old English for the fall semester. Four years ago I taught it, and rumors of that still swirl among our English majors even though all the original students have graduated. Several have asked me to offer it, so I'm going to put in for it.
- I resolve to apply again to be a White House Fellow. This one might seem to have nothing to do with medieval literature at first glance, but my goal here is to spend a year working with federal government agencies so that after my year is up I can use that experience to find opportunities to advance medieval studies. I made it to the interview phase last year, so I think I have a realistic chance, even if it's a slim one.
- I resolve to offer myself to speak to popular audiences on medieval topics at least twice this year. Up until now, I've mostly been waiting for others to come to me to ask. When I examine my own passivity in this area, I realize that it comes from a sense that contacting others out of the blue to arrange something stinks of crass self-promotion. That's just dumb pride speaking. If I want to promote medieval studies, I'm going to have to swallow my pride and put myself out there. If some book club leader or fantasy convention organizer thinks I'm a crass self-promoter, so be it.
- I resolve to try to transform the MediEvolution Project from an internal project to a collaborative project. If MediEvolution were a baby, it would be diagnosed as "failure to thrive." I've given a lot of thought to what's wrong with it, and I think my major error has been to try to do everything myself in-house at Troy University. This year, I'm going to solicit other scholars to produce content. Until now I've been running it as the sole proprietor -- I think I'm going to transform myself into Project Director and see what others' creativity can produce. If anyone (including graduate students, by the way) is interested in working on the MediEvolution Project, let me know.
So, those are my medieval New Year's Resolutions. If any of you have medieval-oriented resolutions you're making, I invite you to unlock your own wordhoards in the comments below.
*Yes, I know I don't look like I run that regularly, but I really do. Even though I'm still heavier than I'd like to be, I'm also way healthier (especially in endurance) than I was, so it's worth it even if I never lose another ounce.