Happy 2007 everyone!
It’s a brand new year, filled with new promises and fresh hopes. We take stock in the previous year’s successes and challenges, happy times and sad moments, times when we were shining and other points when we were not at our best. The new year prompts us to be reflective and meditative as well as excited and motivated.
So what do we do? We make resolutions. We resolve to lose weight, exercise more, spend more time with our families, hold our tongues when we want to lash out. Resolutions can do a lot of good if they come from true reflective thinking.
I remember when I was in the middle of a painful end to a relationship, and for various reasons, I sank into a depression. The holidays were a low point, and with the new year, I took stock of my life, thought and felt seriously about how I wanted to vision my life, and made eight resolutions to get there. I realize now that they really were steps on the journey more than resolutions, and I gave myself the year to make it. With the help of friends and family, 2004 was a banner year for me, and I surpassed the vision I set for myself.
I haven’t made resolutions since.
Resolutions always remind me of my years as a teacher. At the beginning of the semester, my high school students would have fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, shiny assignment books, and can-do attitudes. They would write resolutions of sorts to me in their journals: this semester would be a turning point for them—to do all homework, to study harder for quizzes and tests, to actually read the books. Few of the students made it. The notebooks got messy, and the assignment books vanished.
But it never made me angry or upset. Students are humans, just like us. How often have we vowed to lose weight, only to fall back to familiar patterns by spring, or Valentine’s Day, or even by the Super Bowl? How many of our resolutions begin with, “This year will be the year that I finally _____________?”
It’s all right if we don’t make it the first or second…or tenth time. We’re human, and we’re not perfect. Perfectionism can truly stop a person from living if that person is obsessed with getting it perfect instead of getting it done well. Instead, we need to forgive ourselves.
Perhaps for this new year, it’s time to vision (or revision) better lives for ourselves. Let’s spend some serious time to imagine what we really want to see, to feel, to hear ourselves doing. Get specific! Envision places, people, things around you in your better life, and dream this scene using all five senses. Make it as real and as detailed as you can. That way, it will be more real, and that will make it easier to actualize. Then, draw or write about this improved life. Make it something tangible that will remind you of what you’re working toward.
It’s not a resolution. You have just visioned a new possibility instead. Now, you need to get there.
My recommendation is not to set well intentioned but nonspecific resolutions, but rather, make small steps. For example, if a thinner you is part of your vision, don’t resolve to lose weight, eat better, or exercise more. Instead, set a small step to lose five pounds by the end of January through replacing your snack of potato chips with celery and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of resolving to spend more time with the family, set a step of reading a storybook as a family for each Thursday night in January.
For me, one part of my vision is to reach out to a greater audience of nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs, empowering them to be more successful in their work. Another part is to bring in more business. Instead of resolving to do that, I’m in the process of thinking of what small steps I need to take to make that a reality. Writing this article is a great first step.
The beauty of these small steps is manifold. For one, they seem much more easily accomplished than large resolutions. They encompass relatively short time frames, which allow you to see if it worked or not. If not, try setting something else small for another short time, and do not beat yourself up! Just move on. If they did work, reward yourself (this is key—you did a good job!) and set the next step. This next step may be a little more challenging, but with the simple step accomplished, it will seem like a piece of cake. And rewarding yourself is crucial to making the vision a reality. You will improve your entire outlook!
Before you know it, you will be that person in that new vision for yourself. And it will be the best year yet. Best wishes to you and your loved ones for a transformative and remarkable 2007!