May your troubles be as short-lived as my New Year’s resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s time to shake off the snow from my clothes and the dust from my New Year’s resolutions. Although in keeping with the holiday spirit, I’ve opened with a humorous title, the subject is serious. We need to reflect on our status and monitor our progress both on a short-term and a long-term basis. The beginning of the New Year is a perfect time for such a review.

What’s in store for us this year? Since life is synonymous with change, this year our lives will either improve or worsen. The likelihood of it improving is greatly enhanced for those of us who make a plan (New Year’s resolution). To succeed, however, we must remember that ‘resolution’ implies remaining resolute, steadfast, unswerving, and unbending in our determination. And I’m not suggesting that we remain firm and unwavering when shirking our duty. Rather, like Benjamin Franklin, I’m suggesting we resolve to perform what we ought to do and perform without fail what we resolve.

When we make New Year’s resolutions and stick to them, we grow stronger. We mature. We develop self-discipline and lift ourselves by our own bootstraps. The result is greater self-confidence, peace of mind, and control over our lives. On the other hand, when we break our resolutions, we grow weaker. After all, we have demonstrated to ourselves that we are not resolute; we lack self-discipline, and we have given up on improving ourselves. Don’t allow the negative effects of the broken resolutions of others deter you from making your own. Instead, use that information as motivation to stick to the promises you have made to yourself and enjoy the benefits that will follow.

To begin the New Year on a sure footing, it may be helpful to review some of the steps involved in developing and carrying out our resolutions.

1. Reflection. Before we can change our behaviour, we need to change our mind. And before we can change our mind, we need to be aware of the need for change. Often, we get so caught up in the mundane activities of life that we don’t see which way we are heading. What’s the point of traveling if we don’t know where we’re going? That’s why there’s a need for reflection. We pause to ask ourselves questions like: “Where am I heading? Did I accomplish everything I set out to do last year? What did I do that was right? What did I do wrong? What do I need to do differently this year? Awareness of problems leads to a desire for change and is the first step in getting back on track.

2. Conviction. Now that we want to change, it’s time to acknowledge that we CAN change. Reflect on the many accomplishments you have already attained. Remind yourself of your personal power. Use your achievements to inspire you to add new attainments to your list of accomplishments.

3. Resolution. After accepting that you CAN change, you’re ready to resolve that you WILL change. Focus on your determination and get your adrenaline running. Determination is the key to releasing your power. For as William Ellery Channing (1780 ~ 1842) wrote, “A man in earnest finds means, or, if he cannot find, creates them. A vigorous purpose makes much out of little, breathes power into weak instruments, disarms difficulties, and even turns them into assistances. Every condition has means of progress, if we have spirit enough to use them.”

4. Commitment. You are resolved to act, so now make a commitment. That is, make a plan and take your first action steps. For example, if you’re planning to start an exercise program, take a tour of some facilities; select one, and sign up. Congratulations! Your exercise program will not only firm your body, but will make you firm and resolute. And when you are firm and resolute, you mold the world and shape your destiny.

5. Get excited. Turbo charge your emotions. Resolve is the poker that stokes the fires of enthusiasm and passion. When you’re burning with enthusiasm, you’ll find the way to succeed. The fire that lights your heart, lights the way. Someone else described it this way, “Paths clear before those who know where they’re going and are determined to get there.”

6. No pain, no gain. Don’t be afraid of ‘pain.’ The more you experience, the more you will delight in your accomplishment. Don’t let a little pain stop you, for as the Scottish Theologian William Barclay (1907-1978) said, “All life is based on the fact that anything worth getting is hard to get. There is a price to be paid for anything. Scholarship can only be bought at the price of study, skill in any craft or technique can only be bought at the price of practice, eminence in any sport can only be bought at the price of training and discipline. The world is full of people who have missed their destiny because they would not pay the price. No one can take the easy way and enter into any kind of glory or greatness.”

7. Persist. Simple persistence and perseverance are golden keys. Those who unfalteringly remain on target are assured of success. When Muhammad was told to give up his unpopular crusade, he said, “O uncle! I swear that if they put the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, I will not renounce the career I have entered upon until God gives me success, or I perish.” That was determination. Such determination is unstoppable.

8. Change your viewpoint. Positive change is positive. So, your viewpoint must also be positive. For instance, let’s say you plan to give up cigarettes. Don’t say, “I will quit smoking.” Why? Because that’s a negative viewpoint. You see, all it does is bring up thoughts of LOSS. Each time you think about quitting, you’ll think about being deprived of the pleasure and comfort of smoking. No wonder it’s hard to quit. Instead say, “From today I will lead a healthier lifestyle.” That statement brings up thoughts of GAIN. You will gain stamina, well-being, a heightened sense of taste, a longer life span, and so on. By focusing on the positive, you’ll have a reason to persist.

Why do we accomplish so little in life? Because we make so few attempts. What is the monster that blocks our way and prevents us from trying? Our own imagination! It magnifies the efforts and difficulties facing us and makes the possible dream seem like an insurmountable one. Don’t believe it. Follow your heart, not an overactive imagination. To stay on track, remember this little poem:

Did is a word of achievement,
Won’t is a word of retreat,
Might is a word of bereavement,
Can’t is a word of defeat,
Ought is a word of duty,
Try is a word of each hour,
Will is a word of beauty,
Can is a word of power.