Making Resolutions Work
Amid the confetti and streamers of New Year’s Eve come 2013’s resolutions. While the dark, wet Northwest winter suggests a slower, quieter pace, this year’s self-improvement quest will be in high gear this week.
Despite the cynicism associated with New Year’s resolutions, this inclination is healthy. It expresses the human need to move beyond one’s self—to grow and develop in new ways. Now is a good time to take stock and establish goals for the coming year.
I like to look over the last year and review my successes and failures. I close my eyes and visualize the year, as if watching a videotape. I recall the important, precious moments of daily life. I examine my actions and give myself credit when I was the way I want to be—patient, loving, and compassionate. I also look at those moments when I fell short. I try to understand the barriers that block my own personal development.
During this look within, I try to discern the rhythm and movement of my life. I try to see where I have been, where I am going, and where I want to be. I seek to understand the internal forces that propel me forward. This year review forms the basis for the coming year’s goals.
Unfortunately, most New Year’s resolutions fail. Here are some typical short-lived pledges.
This year I will lose 5-10 pounds. Holiday midriff bulge invites this time-honored New Year tradition. After gaining 5 pounds over the holidays, adults grit their teeth and swear off sweets. Starting with strong resolve in January, dieters weaken by February. Why? For one, slimming down requires an ongoing commitment rather than a periodic roller coaster ride. But more importantly, healthy eating doesn’t come from the calendar’s change. It comes from an inner dedication to personal growth and health.
This year I will finally get in shape. January brings on a flurry of new health club memberships. Well-meaning men and women give each other treadmills, stair climbers, and exercise bikes as holiday gifts. Unfortunately, they become clothes hangers by March. Expensive health club memberships go unused. Maintaining a healthy body comes from living a healthy life. To succeed, exercise programs have to be integrated into the fabric of weekly life. Otherwise, they fade with holiday memories.
This year I will finally quit smoking. Mark Twain once said “I know how to give up smoking. Why, I have quit a thousand times!” Quitting cigarettes requires a high degree of motivation, and an inner sense that it is time to quit. Know that smoking is unhealthy is usually not sufficient incentive. “Wanting to want” to quit is not enough. While these New Year’s resolutions don’t last very long, it is possible to make change. However, it isn’t really possible to begin “anew”. Rather, constructive change in the New Year must build on the efforts of the “old” year. Here are some New Year’s resolutions that can work.
In 2013, I will further my personal growth. Personal growth is expressed in a rich variety of ways. Set your “internal gyroscope” in the direction you want to go. Ask yourself, what were my goals for 2012? Which ones did I achieve? What were the barriers to reaching the ones I fell short of? Pick one or two important themes and establish a plan of action.
Focus on adding balance and healthy habits. Changing behavior is hard, but possible. Instead of planning on losing 5 lbs, think about one or two eating habits you would like to change. This will send you off on the right direction. This year I plan to work on portion control—a continued challenge for me. Consider what habits you want to address.
Be realistic. This is important for success. Keep it simple and keep it small. Success breeds more success.
What do you plan to work on this year? Share your resolutions!