Broken promises and shattered dreams

It’s that time of year again. Time to think about making New Year’s resolutions. How did you do last year? If you kept them, congratulations, for you are now a better person because of them. When asked about their resolutions, many people reply, “This year, I’m making only one resolution, and that is NOT to make any resolutions.” It’s a cute reply, but a regrettable one because the implication is they have no plans to improve.

Why have they given up on making New Year’s resolutions? Because they became discouraged by their past failures. Why did they fail? Because they never made resolutions in the first place. What they made were wishes. Oh, they may have stated it as a resolution; for example, Bob may have said, “This year I plan on losing ten pounds.” But his heart was saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I lost ten pounds? I hope I do.” That’s not a plan; that’s a fanciful dream. No wonder Bob failed. And when their resolutions come tumbling down, all they’re left with are broken promises and shattered dreams.

There is only one way to make a resolution and that is to make a commitment. A commitment is a passionate plan. That is, you are passionate about achieving a particular goal and you have a plan on how to go about doing so. Compare Bob to Charlie. Charlie clenched his teeth, pounded the table with his tightened fist, and exclaimed, “I’m sick of being overweight. I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to make a plan to lose ten pounds by next summer!” Charlie is passionate. He’s committed. And he’s working on a plan.

He develops his plan by asking himself a series of questions and reflecting on the answers. Questions like, “What are the advantages of losing weight? What are the disadvantages? How much weight can I reasonably be expected to lose? What resources do I have to help me reach my goal? Who and where can I turn to for advice? What obstacles am I likely to meet and how can I overcome them? What steps do I have to take and on what dates will I accomplish each step?”

After completing the above process, Charlie feels good. He has a sense of direction. He realizes that next year life will no longer be something that merely happens to him. Rather, he is going to make things happen. He is in control. He instinctively understands that when we keep the promises we make to ourselves, we become promising.

What about those who say, “More power to Charlie, but I’m not like him. I can’t make resolutions and keep them.” Sorry, that’s not true. You see, they ARE making resolutions and KEEPING them. The only problem is their resolutions are negative, for example, “I CAN’T lose weight. I CAN’T quit smoking. I CAN’T wake up on time.” The list goes on and on. They are amazingly successful at keeping their resolutions. Unfortunately, their negative resolutions bog them down, limit their capabilities, stunt their growth, and diminish their happiness.

Since we all make and keep resolutions, the questions we want to ask ourselves are “What resolutions do we want to make? Will I resolve to become MORE than what I am today or will I resolve to become LESS than I am capable of becoming?” The choice is ours. If we’re now in a mess, why despair when we can repair? We should be looking forward to the New Year. It is the perfect time to initiate changes in our lives. And here are some tips to help us carry out our resolutions.

1. If we make a resolution, we are resolving to do something we are not yet doing. Why aren’t we doing it? There must be reasons. It may be difficult to do, involve some efforts we have to make, or sacrifices we have to carry out. So, expect resistance. Prepare for it. Accept the short-term pain for the long-term gain. After sticking to our resolution for a month or two, it will become a habit and much easier to carry out. So, it will no longer be a matter of working harder, but of developing good habits which will propel you forward. Keep your eyes on the goal and anticipate the success that is yours.

2. Don’t become unrealistically ambitious. True, it may be great to improve your golf game, lose weight, hang out more with your friends, take a computer course to improve your productivity, learn ballroom dancing, make a rec room in the basement, and design a flower garden for your backyard. But wait a minute! Do you have the time? Don’t engage in wishful thinking. Instead schedule each activity so you know exactly how much time is available. And don’t forget to include extra time for emergencies.

3. Here is a powerful technique. At the same time you make your New Year’s resolutions, change your routine. For instance, take a different route to work, have lunch at another place, open the door to your office with your left instead of your right hand, and so on. Why do so? Because each time you act out of character, you are forcing yourself to remember that you are living in a new way. It is easy to change your routine, and the changes will act as powerful cues, reminding you that you have resolutions to follow.

4. Make your goals as specific as possible. Don’t say, “I’m going to lose some weight” but say “I’m going to lose 10 lb. by May 30, 2003 by drinking more water, cutting out junk food, eating balanced meals, and exercising.”

5. Monitor your progress weekly. What are you doing right? Keep doing it! What are you doing wrong? What is the cause of the problem? How can you correct it? Also, set milestones. For example, if you’re going to lose 10 lb. by the end of May, that works out to 2 lb. per month. Confirm you standing every month. By keeping a watchful eye on your progress, you’ll be able to make corrections as you go along.

6. Do it for yourself. Don’t be pressured into anything. Remember, to succeed, your plan must be a passionate one. How can you be passionate about something you don’t want to do? Decide on what you WANT from life and focus on those goals. Granted, there may be things you should be doing, but don’t want to. That’s fine; it simply means you’re a human being. The good news is that as we accomplish goals we WANT, we develop self-discipline. In other words, you’ll have the strength to work on bigger goals later.

7. Because we cannot accomplish everything at once, we need patience, focus, and persistence. As we monitor our progress and see the progress we are making, no matter how small, it will be enough to motivate us to continue. If you come across bumps in the road, don’t be discouraged. Just pick yourself up and continue. How can you develop your skills if it’s smooth sailing all the way? You need to experience a few storms before you can become the Captain of your ship.

May your resolutions lead to a life of grandeur. Here’s to the bright New Year and a fond farewell to the old; here’s to the things that are yet to come and the memories that we hold. Happy New Year!