I’m not in the habit of making self-improvement resolutions for the New Year–at least I tell myself that I’m not–but this morning I came across a file that makes me wonder how often I’ve made such stalwart promises to myself and then promptly forgot them.

In a folder of writing files, I spotted one marked “Writing Goals.” It contained two straightforward (albeit ambitious) writing goals for the new year, and was dated December 9…2008!

Not only have I failed to achieve either of those objectives over the past two years, but I don’t even remember setting them. I’ve been able to engage in my daily activities guilt-free because I’ve been completely oblivious to the goals I set for myself.

Perhaps setting New Year’s resolutions has this simple purpose for me: It absolves me of guilt for the past year’s shortcomings, with a comforting promise that I’ll do better in the coming year. That’s all. As soon as the monkey of the past year is off my back, I give myself tacit permission to continue doing what I’ve done (or failed to do) before. After all, I have a plan — right?