New Year's Resolutions

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Don’t do it ! Every year about this time, many of us take a look back at the year about to close and a look ahead to the new year. Some make a list of things they’re going to accomplish or change; others don’t. My take is that we usually set ourselves up for failure. We think if we can just grit our teeth a little harder, we’ll make it work this time.

It may be just the opposite of gritting our teeth. It may be that the way to go is to loose our grip, exhale, relax, slow down, don’t sweat the small stuff, focus on what matters (people), and maintain an eternal perspective.

If you are inclined toward resolutions, give yourself a break and make them achievable. Rather than say “I’m going to lose 50 pounds or exercise every day for 365 days”, tell yourself “I’m going to exercise 3 times a week in January and see if the habit sticks”. Rather than say “I’m going to read the Bible (or other inspirational book) every day for 15 minutes whether I feel like it or not”, why not give yourself a little flexibility and accomplish about the same thing – “I’m going to read the book of Genesis in January”. Build on small successes.

Another approach (borrowed from Lou Holtz in a Wall Street Journal article from about 20 years ago) – Don’t focus so much on the coming year as on the rest of your life. What are the 100 things you want to do or see before you die ? I did make out a list back then. Without being too anal, I’ve probably gotten about halfway through it. It included world travel and signature sporting events, most of which I’ve done, to more time-consuming aspirations, like writing a book or teaching a college course, which I have not done. One item was to live in or near a world-class city. So when the opportunity arose in ’95 to move to the New York area, this list was somewhat influential in the decision to take the plunge.

It’s all about balance. There is value in goal-setting and list-making as long as they don’t become obsessions.

What are your New Year’s resolutions ? What’s on your list of 100 ?

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