The Reason To Make Resolutions
Wednesday - December 27, 2006
The more, umm, “mature” I get, the fewer things go on my wish list for the new year. I think that’s because the wisdom of age has shown me that most of these resolutions are either overly ambitious or laughably trivial.
Case in point: Lose 10 pounds. This has been on my list for the last 11 years, ever since I had my son. Since I have failed every year for a decade, I think it’s time to rethink and retool this particular goal. Maybe I should give up.
If I give up counting calories and unleash my inner glutton, who knows what would happen? Actually I do know. I’d probably gain 10 more pounds. Better leave this one alone.
Next on the list: Exercise more. Every year I say this and I mean it, but oh, it’s hard. It’s not (just) that I’m lazy, it’s that something always comes up that seems more important. This resolution is so gone.
Wait, you say, now that I’m retired I should have more time? A person has to make time for exercise? If I stop working out I’ll get old and creaky fast - and gain weight??! Yes, yes, yes, you’re right. OK, no more excuses. It stays on the list.
So maybe it’s not an empty exercise after all. Maybe the reason we make resolutions is because we need periodic booster shots of faith, optimism and commitment in order to balance the general ugliness we see everywhere else. We make promises to ourselves because our actions are the only things we can control. And this yearly renewal says to us that we believe we can do better, and we can make the world better, too.
In fact, when I take a look back, my annual resolutions have not all been failures. Two years ago I promised to pay more attention to friends and family. This was a departure from previous years’ vows to be better at my job or to be more successful in my career. This was a recommitment to people, and it has been the single most important and fulfilling promise I’ve made. It helped focus me in a direction I had been drifting away from for a number of years. The New Year’s resolution wasn’t a spontaneous thought or sudden whim, but something that had been percolating in my mind for a long time. I put it into words on a list and it crystallized.
Another resolution that didn’t fade away, in fact it grew stronger through the years - to get involved with one or more issues that would make a difference to people. This was on my wish list many years ago and it took awhile to figure out how to do it, but eventually it translated into action. I’m still working on it.
Making New Year’s resolutions can be a silly exercise in wish fulfillment or a tool to help shape your life. I’ve found through the years that it’s been a little of both. The important thing - no matter what part of the year you do it - is to take stock of your life and your values. Think about your goals, big and small, and take the additional step of writing them down. Do it once a year or once every five years, but do it. You may look back years later and discover it wasn’t a big waste of your time.
In fact, you may be amazed at what you did to define your own life, and pleased at how resolute you turned out to be.
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