After many unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions ago, I took it upon myself to evaluate why I failed every year at sticking to them. Like most people by this this time of the year, I would have forgotten the promises I had made to myself back on January 1st.
Despite the opinions out there, my experience demonstrated that there were many foibles that time and again sabotaged my efforts at sticking to the laudable New Year’s resolutions I chose to adopt. Three of them always stuck out.
The first obstacle as to why my New Year’s resolutions turned out to be destined for failure was having to wait 364 days for their implementation. For weeks, I would concoct what I would sacrifice as of January 1st. In the meantime, I would engage in excessive, destructive behavior completely opposite to the ultimate, idealized goal.
I reasoned that come the New Year, a born-again me would be able to completely eradicate from my daily routine the undesirable conduct, and in the process become a new person. This resulted in an inordinate waste of time.
On December 2003, my mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was severely overweight and had a 5-year old son. As I saw my mother slowly succumb to her illness, it dawned on me that as much as she was trying to cling on to dear life, I was wasting away mine with my terrible eating habits and compromised health condition. I decided that if I did not want to leave my son an orphan, I had to get my act together.
Thus, one day in March 2004, I made the resolution to eat right and exercise. I did not wait until the New Year to start my regime. I did not set as my goal to shed the 60 pounds I needed to lose. Instead, I went for realistic 5-pound increments. By October, I had lost all the weight I needed to lose and was in the best shape of my life. Three months before January 1st.
I looked awesome in my New Year’s Eve party outfit. I celebrated having accomplished my “New Year’s resolution” before having even actually formulated it. I saved a lot of time by not waiting until the 1st of January to think of and implement it.
The way I gradually lost so much weight shed light on the second obstacle that had sabotaged many prior New Year’s resolutions. Extreme –albeit desirable — resolutions such as not eating sugar, exercising every day or sleeping 8 hours a day are very hard to strictly adhere to. Given the sacrifice they entail, they become easily broken vows. Since then, I have learned that in order to make a resolution one that I could keep, it had to delicately oscillate between sacrifice and pragmatism.
This led me to what I think is perhaps the third and most important reason why my prior New Year’s resolutions turned out to be altogether a bad idea for me. While the idea behind the resolution itself could have been desirable, it sometimes required the solving of some personal issue first.
When I engage in behavior I end up disliking — like overeating or overdrinking — it’s usually because of some unresolved feeling or issue. I cannot pretend to change a behavior if I first don’t solve the situation that triggered the undesired behavior in the first place.
A calm frame of mind is not likely to trigger a Krispy Kreme craving at 2:00 am. Likewise, no amount of will power will keep me way from raiding the fridge at night if there are outstanding emotional or spiritual matters that need to be ironed out.
After many failures at unfulfilled, grandiose resolutions, I decided to do it differently. I choose more feasible resolutions that little by little would contribute to my ultimate goal of becoming a more disciplined and successful person.
During the past two years, I have randomly adopted simple, yet significant resolutions I am proud not to have deviated from. Two of them have been the decision to never leave a single dirty dish on the sink at night and making my bed first thing every morning.
The inspiration for this last one came from an awesome commencement speech by Admiral William McRaven who adheres to the thought that by doing small things right, you can change the world. I urge you to take the time to listen to him if you have not had the opportunity.
Losing my mother to cancer, coupled with Admiral McRaven’s message, made me realize that every day I wake up gives me the opportunity to start anew, to change my life. Every day I get the opportunity to begin the first day of the rest of my life. This is why every morning we should celebrate the day as if it were the New Year.
Any day I can make and stick to a new resolution that will help me accomplish the goals I set for myself. Goals that sometimes feel like climbing a mountain. Goals that require persistence, none of which I could have accomplished by means of the traditional New Year’s resolution.
Most of us publicly joke about breaking the New Year’s Resolutions.
However, keeping a vow to myself is a pretty serious matter for me. Pride is not the result I seek when I struggle to stick to my resolutions. Rather, it is the sense of self-worth that I squeeze out of pushing myself to keep my word to my spirit, even when no one is watching.
Small, seemingly insignificant changes inspire me to look forward to accomplishing goals I never thought possible before. Climbing mountains I never fathomed I could conquer. Self-improvement is a constantly-evolving undertaking that involves taking on small, yet significant year-round “New Year’s resolutions” as the circumstances so require.
Relevant to this take on “New Year’s Resolutions” is one of my all-time favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go”:
“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
Your mountain is waiting.
Do not hesitate to take it on today, this New Year’s Day that you woke up to this morning.