ways, I believe that resolutions for the new year suffer from
quite a bit of hype and a great deal of misunderstanding.
They seem to be throw-away promises to ourselves for many people,
and it's nothing for most people to resolve to eat fewer sweets
during the year, break the resolution a week or two later, then
forget that they ever made it. We joke about how quickly we
break our resolutions, completely ignoring the fact that we are,
indeed, breaking a promise to ourselves when we do so.
Of course, if you don't take the promise seriously when you
first make it, there's no real reason to continue to try to keep
that promise. If it's done just for fun on the spur of the
moment some New Year's Eve, then why would you or should you
expect yourself to hold to that promise for an entire year?
But there is another type of New Year's Resolution, the
kind that we definitely should pay close attention to and do our
best to stick to. These are the kinds of resolutions that
come as the result of introspection and reflection, the result of
deep thought concerning who we are as people and how that person
compares to who we wish to be. We all have certain character
traits or habits that keep us from being that person we would be,
and our resolutions can be a way to help us to break certain
habits or slightly modify the ways we do certain things.
Maybe we can resolve to read books that will help us deal with our
anger or depression or feelings of alienation. Perhaps we
can even resolve to get counseling for certain things that we've
been trying hard to deal with on our own, but haven't been quite
successful in doing so.
There are other resolutions, too, that deserve to be
stuck to. We may resolve to write more letters to friends,
and if we stick to that, more of our friends will know the
pleasure of receiving a letter from us. We may resolve to do
more kind acts throughout the year, and again, others will benefit
greatly from what we do.
But how do we stick to these resolutions? There
are a few keys that can help us to make resolutions that are
realistic and workable:
Specific. Instead of saying "I'm going to eat
fewer sweets this year," say "I'm going to limit myself
to eight servings per week of foods that are sweets, especially
candy bars, snack foods, and desserts." Instead of
"I'm going to lose weight this year," "I'm going to
lose a pound every two weeks" will be manageable and
verifiable--plus, you'll have lost 26 pounds over the next year if
you stick to it. If you say that you're going to write more
letters to friends you may or may not do so, but if you say that
you're going to write at least two letters a week to friends, you
have a specific goal that you can measure and verify, and you'll
have written over 100 letters in 2001. Make your resolutions
quantifiable and verifiable.
Be Realistic. Don't promise to lose ten pounds by
February first if you can't do it. Very few people can
safely lose that much weight that quickly. Don't promise to
read a classic novel a day in the new year. Don't promise to
give 50% of your earnings to charity if you can't afford it.
The more realistic you are, the more likely you'll be to stick to
your resolutions, and the more pride you'll get out of having
accomplished something valuable.
Be Others-focused. If all of your resolutions focus on
yourself and what you want, you'll be ignoring one of the great
truths in life--we find happiness and self-satisfaction in doing
things for others. Do you want to be happier? Then
don't resolve to become happier--resolve instead to do a good deed
every day for someone else, with no recognition or reward.
These can be simple deeds such as helping a stranger carry
something from the store to his or her car, or donating a dollar
when the person in front of you in the check-out line comes up 95
cents short. These things are simple, they don't hurt us,
and they do make us happier.
Remind Yourself Constantly. Write them down and post them
where you'll see them many times every day. Remind yourself
constantly that you have a goal or three this year, and that
you're working to reach those goals. Post them on the
bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door, on your car's steering
wheel. Remind yourself.
Limit the Number. Don't make a hundred resolutions so
that by the end of the year you'll have two or three that you
really did accomplish ("Look, I resolved not to throw any
litter on the floor of the Taj Mahal this year, and I kept that
one!). Make two or three that are very special to you, and
that you know will make you a fuller, happier person by year's end
if you stick to them. Then work to keep them.
Your resolutions are promises to yourself. Respect
yourself--do your best to keep those promises. And if you
break them, don't give up--dedicate yourself anew to them in March
or July. And remember as the year goes on that there's
nothing wrong with Easter resolutions or first-day-of-spring
May you have a beautiful year full of love and peace