Monday, December 30, 2013

The New Year will soon be upon us and it is time to pay attention to that time honored tradition—New Year’s Resolutions. Or is it? For many years, a greater potion of my life, I dutifully made New Year’s resolutions that I didn’t keep. Some times those resolutions were merely mental notes I made to myself. Other times they were quite elaborate, written out in great detail and on occasion burned in ritualistic ceremony or conversely put away in safekeeping so that they could be taken out and referred to periodically—that to keep them fresh and, supposedly, maintain my diligence in keeping them. Nothing worked. Sooner or later all of them were broken. Shattered. Trashed. I became a failure—to my resolutions and to myself. That situation caused me a great deal of anxiety. Could I never be true to my good intentions?

Then, quite a few years ago I got wise. Finally I made a resolution that I could keep and I have kept that resolution for many, many years. I made a resolution to never, ever make another New Year’s resolution. That has worked. Through New Years of storm and New Years of tranquil plenty I have remained faithful. I have never, since that successful New Year, made another resolution. It’s not that I have ceased improving—at least I hope not—it’s that I have stopped trying to do it under synthetic conditions. I have made my improvements when I felt I needed to and when I was ready. For instance, about twenty-five or so years ago I quit smoking, but that occurred, as I recall, in June or July. I was sitting in the kitchen one day talking with friends and the pipe I was smoking started to taste bad. I put it up on a convenient shelf and never again lit it. Would I have been better off to wait until New Years and try to quit then?

I have since talked to people that have tried unsuccessfully for years to quit smoking—including using the time-honored New Years resolution method. I don’t think I am special having been able to quit so easily. I think that people are simply better to make changes in themselves when they really feel that it is time for them to do so, in other words when they truly want to. Moreover, the pressure of the New Year’s resolution has just the opposite effect. A person feels obligated to make some improvement, picks something he thinks he or she should do, then, because he or she doesn’t really want to, is not successful. The result is not only no improvement made but an additional feeling of guilt because of having failed. Probably that makes the next try at improving oneself harder.

So the New Year is here and the push is on to make resolutions. If you really feel you should, go right ahead. But it’s best to make sure they concern things you’re seriously ready to change. If not, then wait until you’re ready. If you’re serious about yourself, the time will come. Maybe some time in June or July will be better. And you’ll be better off for having waited.

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