Are Resolutions Worthwhile?

It’s that time of year—the time to make a list of resolutions. They’re promises we make to ourselves about improving life in the coming year. Each New Year we write them down and display the lists at highly visible places to keep them fresh in our minds.

Resolutions usually address a person’s shortcomings. The most often cited one deals with weight loss. The holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving gives individuals too many opportunities to stuff their gullets and pack on the pounds. By the time New Years arrives, folks are exhausted from carrying those spare tires around and promise to get rid of the pounds.

Others promise to stop the use of profanity, give up smoking, or become better employees or parents. For some reason, we like making those kinds of commitments on the first day of the year—a new day and new lease on life. All is positive, and we can see in our minds how much better life will be as we live up to those resolutions for self-improvement.

The key to a successful resolution is work. A person has to be aware of the new promise he’s made, and then he must put forth plenty of effort to complete the steps that make that resolution a reality. Before long, the actions of a resolution become a habit, and at that point, a person has made the behavior a part of his every-day life. This applies to declarations to exercise more or to be better organized. In both cases, the individual sets at time each day to run, walk, or lift weights or to clean, file, and plan until it becomes second nature.

In the end, reality sets in. Most of us don’t last more than a few days in working on our resolutions. We have the best of intentions, just like the ones that line the road to hell. However, unlearning a behavior, especially one that rewards a person with some kind of pleasure, is difficult at best. No one wants to do without something he enjoys, so resolutions that are aimed at habits are often abandoned quickly. I can’t remember how many times I swore I’d quit smoking at the New Year, but when I finally gave up the habit, it was July. In high school I promised myself to study more and improve my grades. That lasted until the first day back in school. Then I decided that improving required too much energy and effort.

This year, I’m not making any resolutions. There are some things I’d like to accomplish, but I’m not setting them up so that failure leads to depression. Yeah, I’d like to drop twenty or thirty pounds, begin walking every day, set a time each day to write, and spend more time with others who need my help. If I reach these goals, I’ll be a healthier, lighter, and more contented person. If I don’t, I’ll still be okay.

Be careful what resolutions you set for the coming year. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s good to set goals, but after all, isn’t life supposed to be a pleasant journey? I, for one, can do without the heaps of guilt for falling short of expectations. Hang in there and have a Happy New Year

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