So we’re in the last week of 2013 and you don’t know what your New Year’s resolution is going to be yet? Let me assist you. You are running out of time, you know. First, let’s reject a few ideas that may have crossed your mind. A resolution is generally something that will improve your life, health, personality, etc. And although it might make you happy, throw out the idea of resolving to eat more cake during 2014. Resolving to sleep at least 12 hours a day next year is probably not a good idea either. See, following through on a resolution isn’t something that will give you instant gratification. You feel better about yourself later, not sooner. Anyway, let’s get started.

The most popular (or most resolved) is to lose weight. Or to exercise. It all works out the same way. We eat salad for a week, and go to the gym once or twice, but by the second week of January we’ve forgotten about wanting to be lighter or stronger or just able to climb a flight of stairs without stopping for oxygen halfway up. People who workout year-round (yes, there are people like that!) can tell you about how much more crowded the gym is at the beginning of the year. Then in February the place is so quiet that it looks like a gym in February! There are plenty of other similar resolutions. Choose carefully because if you aren’t in it for the long haul, you may be wasting money for the other 11 months of gym membership. How about giving up fast food? Giving up video games or social networking, which is a variation of the same thing. You might consider giving up a bad habit like smoking or put limits on your drinking habits. Physical improvements are good, provided you have enough willpower to make it past January 2 and a good plan and support system. If you resolve to give up Little Debbie Cakes, don’t hang out with someone who always has a snack cake in the glove compartment or purse.

Besides physical improvements, there are the mental improvements. You can learn a new word every day or develop a reading habit. Learn a second language beyond learning the phrase, “Where is the bathroom?” Read the newspaper everyday. Start listening to different types of music or learn to play a musical instrument. Read the newspaper everyday. Maybe, dare I say it, unplug the television at home. Or at least stop watching stupid programs like anything classified as reality television. And did I mention, read the newspaper everyday.

Then there are the resolutions that are more like events. Resolve to take that trip to Europe, change jobs, run a marathon, write a novel. Then there are resolutions that are meant to begin new behavior like smiling more, being nicer, stop gossiping, quit using the charge card, start recycling, and the like. Let’s face it, the resolutions that are to start new behavior have as much of a chance of working as the whole idea of going to the gym. It’s hard to change old behavior.

Maybe you aren’t a person meant for resolutions like this. Perhaps instead of attempting to use a new year as a clean slate for our behavior, you could set out a new task for the year. That way it’s not like changing behavior, it’s more like adding behavior. For example, you could make a goal of reading six books you’ve always wanted to read — Moby Dick, the Bible, or The Cat in the Hat — and take the year to get it done. If you are successful reading the books, you have probably cut out other behavior like smoking, drinking, or chewing your toenails. Just make sure you haven’t cut out your job, your family, or bathing.

I wish you the best of luck for 2014. Whether you take on the same resolutions as always or you decide to get serious to make changes, you’re going to need luck. And help. And if your standby resolution is to resolve to buy more things for yourself, indulge in extra sleep, and eat more cake, it’s time to give it a try. Choose wisely, and if you need my advice I’ll be sitting in the back with a thick slice of devil’s food.