The New Year’s resolutions we are most likely to keep are attainable, realistic goals.

Probably vows like “Drink more and better wine,” jokes Wall Street Journal writer Dan Ariely.

That’s a lot more pleasant than facing rigid restrictions such as a vow to lose 25 pounds or to stop drinking.

In my own case, I would like to follow Ariely’s advice and make one of my resolutions for 2016 to drink more champagne, my favorite “better” wine.

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My resolutions this year will be about doing more rather than less. They will involve moving ahead instead of stopping. Why resolve something painful like a plan to stop drinking gin gimlets or eating desserts?

That brings me to another of my realistic resolutions that center on doing more rather than less.  This resolution definitely sets the bar low. I resolve to drive to more funky eateries to try more of Hawaii’s local cult foods.  By cult foods I mean snacks (usually pastries) with large followings like Waialua’s famous Snow Puffies.

Snow Puffies, made by Paalaa Bakery on Kaukonahua Road, are rectangles of puff pastry filled with cold creamy custard, topped with swirls of chocolate fudge and powdered sugar.  They are the North Shore’s answer to Paris’s mille-feuille Napoleons.

You can’t eat a Snow Puffy without walking away covered with powdered sugar.

Only in Hawaii can you find a phenomenon like the cult following of this small pastry.

Even after Paalaa Bakery was shut down by the state Oct. 6 for food safety violations, Snow Puffy fans lined up in the parking lot the day after the order to close, desperate to load up on their beloved confection.

Snow Puffies at the Paalaa Kai Bakery, on Oahu's North Shore.
Snow Puffies at the Paalaa Kai Bakery, on Oahu’s North Shore. Annette Kaohelaulii

Paalaa Bakery gained notoriety by becoming the first establishment to be shut down for violations under the Department of Health’s new food safety food inspection program.

It got red-carded by the department’s Sanitation Branch for not keeping its foods at the required cool temperature considered safe for preventing the spread of bacteria, although no one had gotten sick.

My resolutions this year will be about doing more rather than less.

Then it got cited again for allegedly continuing to sell its pastries the day after it was ordered to close.  It faced up $22,000 in fines — $12,000 for the refrigeration violations and another  $10,000 for allegedly continuing to sell Snow Puffies and other specialties such as its equally famous malasadas Oct. 7, the day after the order.

The bakery has corrected its violations and is back in business now with more people than ever waiting in line to try Snow Puffies.

“I never heard of  Snow Puffies until the bakery got a red card, but now I want to see what they are like,” says my friend Maile Sakamoto.

I made my friend Annette Kaohelaulii pull into Paalaa Kai one day when we were out driving on the North Shore. The woman in line in front of me had called in her order and was picking up $45 worth of Snow Puffies.

I am certain I will stick with my resolution to try more local cult foods because it will be a pleasure rather than a deprivation to take a road trip to Wahiawa to buy a slice of Sunny Side Bakery’s double crusted banana pie, or to head to Kalihi to buy Kamehameha Bakery’s poi doughnuts, or, when I am in Hilo, to pick up a box of strawberry mochi from the Two Ladies Kitchen.

Numerous studies that show most people are unable to keep their New Year’s resolutions because their vows are too daunting or restrictive. One study showed a quarter of the people interviewed failed to keep their pledge even for the first seven days of the year

My Diamond Head neighbor Clark Hatch, who owns a chain of gyms, says he sees New Year’s resolutions start to peter out after about two months.

“Every January and February, our gym memberships increase by about 30 percent; but in March people begin to stop showing up.” — Clark Hatch, owner of a chain of gyms.

“It’s amazing,” says Hatch. “Every January and February, our gym memberships increase by about 30 percent. But in March people begin to stop showing up.”

In spite of the difficulty of keeping resolutions, most of us continue to make them each year because it is comforting. It shows we are appealing to our better selves to be more disciplined.   It’s a new beginning.  The simple act of resolving to improve gives us hope.

And not every resolution is a failure. The Washington Post reported that 46 percent succeeded in keeping their resolutions, at least for six months.

According to the Post, the top three resolutions were losing weight, improving finances and exercising more.

One popular resolution made by the stressed workers of the 21st century: to find more leisure time by learning to say no to increasing demands on their time.

Writer Jennifer Breheny Wallace suggests one way to approach this kind of resolution is to employ what she calls a “personal policy.”

“Personal policies are an established set of rules that guide your decisions and actions,” says Wallace. “On the surface, they offer a gentler way of saying no, as in ‘I don’t take work calls on Saturdays because that’s my time with my family.’”

Ed Kenney, the owner of the restaurants Town, the Kaimuki Superette and Mud Hen Water, has made this kind of personal policy. In spite of the money he could make by keeping them open, Kenney closes all three restaurants on Sundays to allow him to spend more time with his family.

“It is important to enjoy one day a week without the phone ringing. It’s not just for me. All the employees are grateful for this, too,” says Kenney.

Too often, people who say yes are trying to please the person who asks, even when what they are being asked to do is personally unpleasant or not in their best interest.

Wallace says you can begin making a personal policy by defining a priority: for example, being home for dinner each night with your children. Then, name the road block that interferes with the priority (such as business meetings) and say, “I don’t attend meetings after 5 p.m.”

Too often, people who say yes are trying to please the person who asks, even when what they are being asked to do is personally unpleasant or not in their best interest.

The personal policy of saying no can be useful in other pursuits such as making a New Year’s resolution to exercise more or to lose weight.

In the case of exercising, you can say to yourself, “I don’t skip time at the gym.”  For food, you can use the “I don’t” strategy by saying something like “I don’t eat cake.”

Wallace cites a 2012 study by the Journal of Consumer Research which found that 80 percent of the participants who told themselves ‘I don’t skip the gym” were successful at sticking to their resolution while only 10 percent of those who said “I can’t skip the gym” stuck with their goal.  The simple change in wording to “I don’t” implies a personal commitment that can strengthen self- control, she says.

The lead researcher in this study cited by Wallace, Vanessa Patrick, says that saying “I don’t” is more persuasive not only to yourself, but to others.

So following this logic, if a hostess urges you to have a piece of pie simply tell her,  “I don’t eat pie.”

Wallace says, “Saying ‘I don’t’ connotes a higher degree of conviction and makes it harder for someone to push back.”

Learning to say no is actually a way of saying yes to what matters most in life, which is becoming a better person and spending more time with people you love.

I say hello to 2016, which for me will be a year of saying no to anything unproductive and yes to what matters.

It is important to push for more in life when each year the time we have left to live is less.

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