Sure, I make new years resolutions. But I usually wait until sometime close to February to decide what they are. I'm not sure if that amounts to procrastination or introspection. What is for certain, is that I can't rush it. And my resolutions need to really mean something to me. I mean, we should all resolve to eat healthier and exercise more. To be kinder to the people around us, and patient with those who challenge us. (which is a really nice way of saying they bug the crud out of us!) I believe our new years resolutions should focus on real self-improvement. It's sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what is going to fix what is broken in our lives.
If you're serious about it... allow me to share a bit of brilliance from one of my favorite, contemporary, thought machines. I just love the mind of Jennifer Fulwiler*. She has an incredible gift for bringing big thoughts down into reasonable nutshells.
Today, Fulwiler shared her take on New Years Resolutions for the Overwhelmed. Are you with me?
It's all about making sure your actual priorities are in line with your stated priorities.
Being as overwhelmed as I am, the main problem was that I didn't know where to start. When I thought of "things in my life that could use improvement," I would become overwhelmed by the flood of options that came to mind. So I made up a little life inventory list that included all the most important areas of my life (not necessarily in priority order):
- RELATIONSHIP WITH THE KIDS
- SPIRITUAL LIFE
- SOCIAL LIFE
- WORK / OUTSIDE COMMITMENTS
There were only a couple of areas where I felt that all was going well and few improvements could be made. For each of the others, I asked myself the following questions:
- What is the biggest problem I am I having in this area?
- What are the causes of that problem?
- What has been preventing me from solving that problem?
Okay, maybe that still sounds like a lot of work... but when she shares the process of her resolution revolution - it's about as easy as it gets. Here is Jennifer's take on Spiritual Life - which could just as easily substitute for making time for meditation or yoga, or whatever anchors your day:
- What is the biggest problem I am I having in this area? I'm not starting the day with prayer. This always leads me to have a lax attitude about prayer (and many other things) for the rest of the day.
- What are the causes of that problem? I've been sleeping in because I'm staying up too late.
- What has been preventing me from solving that problem? The kids have gotten totally off schedule during the holidays, and are staying up way too late. I desperately need an hour or so of wind-down time to myself after the little ones are in bed, so that means that I'm always up late too.
This was quite revelatory for me: I had never made a connection to my children's drifting nighttime schedule to my prayer life, but through this exercise I realized that things had gone off the rails in that department exactly when we started getting lax about when everyone went to bed. Even more interestingly, that same issue kept coming up in other areas of life: The examinations for Relationship with the Kids, Housekeeping, Health, and Work all revealed connections to this issue of everyone's nighttime schedule being in disarray.
And there I had a clear goal for the new year: Establish reasonable bedtimes for everyone in the house. It's simple, it's doable, and I expect that if we can see improvements in this one small area, they will radiate out toward many other areas of life.
If that doesn't help you focus your resolution making, it's possible that resolutions just aren't for you.
If that's the case, feel free to follow my example; I make sure to have at least one fun resolution each year. You know. Set yourself up for success!
One year I resolved to inject more color into my wardrobe. Another, I gave myself permission to buy accessories like jewelry, belts and scarves. The year I decided to buy and wear more prints and patterns taught me that I don't really like to see myself in prints and patterns. But I learned which ones I do like - and I no longer let the mass of solids in my closet make me feel bland. Turns out, I have a thing for texture and unique stitching details.
Maybe for you, it's trying new foods or traveling to new places. Seeing the tourist attractions in your own state that you never bother to explore.
Nowhere is it written that new years resolutions have to be hard or no fun. I think we should just hope that they enrich our lives in some way.
*Jennifer Fulwiler writes her personal blog at ConversionDiary.com and also blogs for the National Catholic Register. She is also the author of her upcoming book about her conversion from Atheism to Catholicism. Find more details on her blog page!