New Year’s resolutions. I almost hate to admit this publicly, but I really don’t see the point to New Year’s resolutions. How many people make resolutions? How few people keep their resolutions past the end of January?
A couple years ago, I wrote about using goal theory to help succeed in making and keeping resolutions. Perhaps that was helpful for someone. This year, I decided not to wade into the flow of a traditional New Year sentiment but to be honest about it: I don’t see a great deal of value in New Year’s resolutions.
Indeed, anew year marks a clear beginning. It’s a natural time to think about the future. At the start of another year, it’s appropriate to consider what we hope to attain, experience, or share with others over the coming year. Yet, when it comes to resolutions, few of us can claim any success with the custom of starting the New Year with commitments to change. In fact, many of us make the same resolutions year after year. They go by the wayside in three to six weeks and we’re often left with a sense of failure or guilt for not keeping our resolutions.
I think most people are like me: I know what I need to do to become a better person. Many of the things I need to do to improve myself formed themes that run throughout my life. Over the long haul, I can see that I’ve made improvements in some of these areas and not so much in others.
I know that it’s important for me to maintain a regular pattern of prayer and spiritual practice, to maintain my health with regular exercise, and to be attentive to the challenges I experience in controlling my anger. As I look back over my life, I’ve made some improvements in these areas. In my 20’s, I was told by friends that my sarcasm was often just mean. That’s toned down a great deal. I also don’t find that it’s a struggle to pray as it once was. And exercise…well, that’s not yet consistent, but I am more mindful about it than I once was.
It’s my opinion that the wisdom of twelve-step programs regarding life changes and improving ourselves is far more successful than the custom of New Year’s resolutions. We change not by resolving to or using our will-power to make ourselves better. Instead, we become better people when we live life one day at a time. For example, I’ll always find my anger to be a challenge. But today, I can stop myself from reacting to another driver who does something incredibly stupid on the road that almost causes an accident. I may never reach the point where I look forward to exercise, but today, I can take 30 minutes on the tread mill. I can take one day at a time, one moment in that day, and be mindfully present to do the things that are good for me in that moment.
When we live one day at a time, eventually we can look back over the days, weeks, months, and years and begin to see that there are noticeable differences in our lives that indicate our growth to wholeness. I much prefer that to reaching February with the frustration that I failed to keep a New Year’s resolution.
So here’s to the New Year and to living one day at a time! Perhaps that’s a more reasonable resolution to make for the New Year. In doing so, we’ll begin to see real growth towards wholeness in our lives.
© 2014, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.