HERALDING a fresh year provides a feeling of virtue, writes XAVIER DUFF
It is the usual tradition at this time of year to make a list of resolutions.
No doubt this is prompted by guilt, built up over a week of over-indulgence in roasted meats, gluggy puddings and alcoholic beverages.
It also explains why the two most popular New Year's resolutions are to lose weight and stop drinking.
But apparently surveys show 90 per cent of those who make New Year's resolutions fail.
I know what you're thinking. Who could actually be bothered to do a survey on decisions made some time between midnight and 6am on January 1?
I'm surprised people even remember what their resolutions were.
In any case the obvious solution is not to make a list of new ones. Just finish last year's.
New Year's resolutions are a bit like election promises, really - you only stick to the ones that suit you. Core and non-core resolutions, if you like.
So core resolutions would be something like " I will make more effort to relax and enjoy myself" and "Go to the footy more often", and non-core resolutions would be "I promise to paint the house" and "Stop going to clearing sales and buying more stuff."
That most of us do not stick to our resolutions doesn't seem to deter us from making the same mistake year after year.
Sometimes we set the bar too high.
A farmer who makes a New Year's resolution to give up debt is like Bob Katter saying he's going to give up wearing a big hat, or Barnaby Joyce saying he'll stop being sarcastic.
Psychologists also say we set ourselves up for failure by having competing resolutions.
Breaking too many bad habits at once is also no good, which explains why you can't both "give up smoking" and "be less grumpy".
The problem is the bit of the brain in charge of willpower is also in charge of keeping us focused, handling short-term memory, and solving abstract problems.
So trying to stop falling asleep on the tractor during sowing while trying to remember to fix the broken water pump, while doing a Sudoku, all at the same time, means there's not much brainpower left to resist a packet of Tim Tams or a packet of Benson and Hedges at the end of the day.
In short, the brain was not built for New Year's resolutions and getting through the day.
So when you fail to lose that flabby belly or change the password for all your online bank accounts from 1234, don't feel guilty.
Think of it as a New Year's aspiration rather than a resolution - one with a get-out clause.
Remember, there's always next year.
Even better, rather than make up your New Year's resolutions and be disappointed when you fail, make them up for others and be disappointed in them when they fail.
So my resolutions for Tony Abbott would be "Wear less lycra and be more polite to Julia Gillard".
For Julia, they would be "Wear non-trip heels and be more polite to Tony".
For Joe Ludwig, how about some agricultural policies - preferably, ones that don't involve buggering up the live export industry?
And for Brendan Fevola - a vow of silence.
It is also traditional to make some predictions about what the next year will hold.
This is nearly as pointless as New Year's resolutions.
So rather than make predictions about what the headlines might say this year, here are a few I'm pretty sure we won't be reading in 2013:
- COLES and Woolworths welcome government decree to offload stores to Dick Smith.
- BANKS postpone interest rate rise.
- TROUBLED desal plant launches into bottled water market.
- THE Government's major plank in a national food plan: buy back foreign-owned farms.
- YOUTH Parliament: speakers thrown out for being too polite.
- AUSSIE dollar hits US60c - biggest import now empty containers for exports.
- BUDGET back in black thanks to Wayne Swan's lotto win.
- GREENS welcome longer duck hunting season.
- CATTLE return to high country - but only in ski season.
- NEW study confirms Joe Ludwig is harder to find than big cats.
- ELECTION shock: Tony and Julia's PM job share.
So, happy New Year.
And if you are worried about keeping your New Year's aspirations, just remember what Tony Abbott once said about pledges - unless they're written down, they don't really count.
- Xavier Duff is a Weekly Times senior reporter.