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Key to Happy, Successful Resolutions

Posted on January 4, 2011 at 9:30 AM

(as seen in the 1-5-2011 edition of the Review Atlas, a Gatehouse Media Company)

 

 

Have you ever met anyone who said on December 31st that they actually kept each and every New Year’s Resolution they made?

Me neither!

I mean what type of person can actually pull that off?

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that we will fall grossly short, most of us spent time making New Year’s resolutions. We vow to avoid sweets, swearing or cigarettes while promising to ramp up our exercise routine, at-work attitude and church attendance.

There are of course, some people who refuse to make resolutions because they understand this yearly dilemma. "Why", they ask themselves, "should I make a resolution I know I can’t keep past January?"

Good reasoning.

So where’s the middle ground? Is there a middle ground?

Well ask the Danes! I recently read that Denmark is full of some of the happiest people on the planet. They are heavily taxed and have less than ideal weather conditions but Denmark is rich in one area: realistic expectations.

And I think they might be onto something.

What if the key to creating a really great New Year’s resolution is to stop reaching for haughty, improbable, self imposed expectations?

Here’s just a thought, but what if instead of promising to never eat sweets again, vow instead to eat sweets less or limit them to the weekends or special occasions? If you want to add exercise as a part of your New Year’s resolution consider promising to exercise more versus an hour everyday.

Granted these suggestions are not exactly measurable. But maybe that’s the point and the key to a successful resolution. Maybe if we cut ourselves a break this year and give up our narcissistic need to constantly gauge our success or failures we’d discover the joy of the journey and learn to celebrate progress rather than perfection.

I suggest we remove words like ‘everyday’ or ‘never’ from our resolutions and add phrases with ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘sooner’, ‘often’ or ‘better’?

Resolve to be more active. Be kinder. Be a hard worker. Read more. Save more. Spend less. Smoke less. Drink less. Create spontaneous fun. Second guess yourself less. Create calmness. Tackle the chaos. Stop sweating the small stuff and deal with paper piles sooner. (By the way these are real resolutions my Facebook friends offered as suggestions).

Overly specific and impossibly worded resolutions are successful at one thing really; failure. Futile resolutions only fuel the cycle of quitting. We think, "I can’t exercise everyday! Why did I say everyday? I quit! This is too hard!" and we stop working out, we never get any healthier and wallow in another year of self-loathing. Wouldn’t adding one more walk a week on the treadmill be worth celebrating?

So what if this year we resolve to not give up resolutions completely but instead approach them in a new and improved way? Let’s celebrate forward momentum instead of lofty goals. Let’s avoid setting our self up for failure and subsequent quitting, by simply being a little more gentle and realistic with ourselves.

That is after all a life skill I want to instill in my children. I want them to know that moving forward counts in this life as much as, if not more than, arriving. I want to show them resignation is not always the answer and tenacity is honorable.

And that’s my hope for you in 2011 as well. May you, in these early days of a New Year and a new decade, make resolutions that give you momentum. May the joy and peace and strength you long for come not in lofty goals but in genuine expectations for a life well lived. Why? Because I’m the Mom and I said so! That’s why!

Categories: Monmouth Daily Review Atlas Parenting Articles

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