I resolve to exercise daily! Well, maybe three times a week will be enough. Maybe if I park further out in the mall parking lot and walk briskly to the entry that will do for this week
I resolve to eat healthy food only and give up coffee! Hummm. Maybe I’ll just eat more fiber-rich foods, and drink half as much coffee. Well . . . maybe I’ll limit my sugars and stick to decaf after four. That’s cutting back isn’t it?
I resolve to be a better housekeeper! Scratch that one. If I kept a cleaner house, no one would like me. I think I’ll resolve instead to be a more ‘relaxed’ housekeeper. I will relax when my grandsons walk across my newly cleaned, hardwood floors leaving a trail of melted snow and muddy footprints. I will relax when my toddler grandson pees on the toilet seat (again) and forgets to flush!
I resolve to write 50 pages a day on my new novel! (It’s going to be so good.)Well, maybe I’ll try for 25 pages a day instead. (Yawn.) If I get 5 written, I can call it a day.
Oh phooey! This isn’t going to work. I might as well rip this #&?!! list up and start again next year. Ever felt like that? If so, you’re in the same league as me. We start out each January with great intentions, but by the end of February, our zeal has waned and we find our list unrealistic, if not impossible to complete.
Somewhere along the way my strong commitments and motivational steam peters out. I manage to rationalize away ever single resolution I make. I have found a rhythm in my failures. For one, I’m a bit like the farmer who asked his neighbor if he could borrow a rope. “Sorry,” said the neighbor. “I’m using the rope to tie up my milk.”
“Rope can’t tie up milk,” replied the farmer.
“I know,” said the neighbor. “But when a man doesn’t want to do something, one reason is as good as another.” Point taken.
Another reason so many of my New Year’s resolutions in the past have been abandoned is because I’m afraid I can’t meet my own great expectations. I have discovered that some of my resolutions are inherently self-defeating because they aren’t realistic, measurable or attainable. For example, my resolution to ‘eat healthy food’ is way too vague. What does ‘healthy’ mean? A friend defined what that means to her. Here it is: I resolve to limit my sugar intake to 250 calories per day. (Ouch! Really?)
I modified my writing goals: I resolve to write at least 800-1000 words five days a week. This resolve is attainable and more realistic.
If you are like me, I usually throw in the towel way too soon, feeling the sting of defeat, surrendering to negative self-talk and to wearing a cloak of malaise.
Don’t you love that word–malaise! It means ‘a vague or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort.’ Yep! That’s how I feel when I’ve rationalized all my good resolutions away, lost incentive and am feeling guilty because of it.
Here’s my encouragement for the day—both to myself and to my readers out there.
Even though we often make really good resolutions in January that habitually get lost by March, don’t give up making them! Resolutions are often the bait that gets us hooked on some really great changes in our lives. Here are some suggestions that have helped me. Maybe they will help you too!
- Write out your realistic, measurable, and specific resolutions. Post them somewhere so you can review them daily. (Several times a day if that helps!) This will reinforce your determination to forge ahead.
- Practice the new habit. Samuel Johnson once remarked that “the chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” To break an old habit the muscle of self-discipline must be exercised daily to build another, yet stronger habit.
- Tell your friends and family what you intend to accomplish this year. If you haven’t done this yet—who will ever know if you’ve actually reached your goals? Making yourself accountable to others will help you keep on track. (Pride has some redeeming value!)
- Get (re)started today! If you have found yourself slipping, get re-started today! Right now, if possible. Waiting any longer to start that new exercise program, write that novel, or to quit smoking, cut back on caffeine or whatever, only increases the odds that you won’t do it at all. Good habits are not acquired or strengthened by procrastination.
- Be Encouraged! Lastly, I just want to add: You can succeed with ‘stick-to-itiveness’. Persevere. I love stories of men and women who have persevered against all odds; who have faced insurmountable obstacles and yet reached their goal. In the movie, The Edge, the main character, quirky billionaire, Charles, makes this comment to his partner when the two of them faced being killed by a man-eating Grizzly bear—“What one man can do, another man can do.” Though his friend scoffed at this idea in the face of their present, urgent reality, Charles goes on to devise a plan that results in his killing that bear and living to tell about it! How wonderful is that? I have been applying that encouragement to my writing and am finding it inspiring. Sometimes my self-talk and fear get a hold of me and I falter, but that thought moves me right along.
The last point that I want to leave with you is something I am still practicing:
- Stop rationalizing. When you find yourself saying things like, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter,” or “I’ll never achieve that,” or “what’s the use?” remember: “What one man [or woman] can do, another can do.” And do it! No excuses accepted.
As the month of March rolls in, get that January list out and review your resolutions. I did. Join me in making a firm ‘resolution’ not to give up. If you do have a set-back, get back on track quickly. Go head—loose that 15 pounds, one pound at a time. Write that book you have always dreamed of writing—page by page. Start a new savings account and plan that dream vacation. Get that job resume written and start submitting it. But start today! This could be the best year in our lives thus far—so shoot for the moon. Let’s do it!