Thursday, April 12, 2012

Forget Resolutions! Try Re-Solutions !

All over the Western world, the arrival of January signals the return of a event that is as predictable as the North American holiday called Groundhog Day and just as accurate in visioning the future. I am referring, of course, to that combination of good intentions, self-delusion and wishful thinking known as New Year's resolutions.

There does seem to be something in the human spirit that needs to recognize the letting go of the past and the promise of the future. Many of the customs of New Year festivals note the passing of time with both regret and anticipation. The baby as a symbol of the New Year dates to the ancient Greeks, with an old man representing the year that has passed. The Romans derived the name for the month of January from their god Janus, who had two faces, one looking backward and the other forward.

Shooting off firecrackers on New Year's Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the New Year. On the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, every door in the house, and even windows, have to be open to allow the old year to go out.

For Jews, the ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah are commonly known as the "Days of Repentance." This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement."

The practice of making resolutions to rid oneself of bad habits and to adopt better ones also dates to ancient times. And my guess, the ancient resolutions were as ineffective as our modern ones. It's not that resolutions don't have benefits. It's that they often benefit others. Among the biggest beneficiaries are gyms, weigh loss centers, & smoking cessation hypnotists.

So what to do? Abandon all hope of change for the better? No! We do have the power to realize our goals. It's not as easy as it was for Alice in Wonderland, who all along had the power to change her situation just by clicking her heels. Or maybe it is. We all possess the power within us to change. It's just that we tend to think globally (I want to lose weight, budget better, be less stressed, etc). And life is lived locally (what's for dinner?; I deserve that vacation; I need this job for the health insurance).

The key is act in doable chunks, which is why I propose "Sequential Re-Solutions." Don't make resolutions, take action steps. The "re-solution" is now focused on small, concrete actions that keep you on the path to you goals. Last year, one of my resolutions was to "get more organized." This year, it's to "start each day with a 5- 10 minute focus on the one or two most important things for me to accomplish this day." Another was to keep in touch with my far-away friends. This year, it's "compile a list of all my friends' birthdays and put it into my calendar with reminders to send a note."

What sequential re-solutions will you make that will keep you focused, motivated and successful? It's as easy as clicking your heels together.

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