A resolve of one's own
Somewhere between the whirlwind of the holidays and adjusting to the fact that an entirely new year is upon us, there is an opportunity to create a subtle but significant shift in each of our lives. That opportunity lies in looking at the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions with fresh eyes.
For so many of us, those resolutions have become a revolving list of failed attempts to do the same old thing, the same old way.
Before I launch into my attempt to convince you this tradition can create meaningful, positive change, I’ll share something written by Annie Dillard. It serves as my inspiration to collect the moments of my days in words scrawled in the margins of my notebooks in order to savor them later.
Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I think she’s right about that, as days quickly turn into weeks, months, years and decades — if we’re lucky.
The trifecta of making, keeping and reflecting on annual resolutions is one way I’ve learned to be a better steward of my days and thereby, hopefully, my life.
And by “keeping,” I don’t actually mean making good on everything on the list. I mean recording them somewhere to look at later.
As meaningful as creating the list of intentions is, the tradition of reflecting back on them 365 days, and 30 years, later is more so. I’ve been doing this for decades and treasure the hand-written record of how I have, and haven’t, changed over the years.
I’ve adjusted some things along the way to make this a joyful process instead of just a commemorative guilt trip.
First of all, it helps to remember our purpose on the planet isn’t to do what other people say we are supposed to do; it is to pay attention to what we feel called to do. Getting quiet enough to figure out what that is might be a good place to start.
How do you know which resolutions are really right for you? When you write it down do you feel like this is something you should do or do you feel excited thinking about it?
Both of those things can be true, of course, but the pull to lean into something is what motivates you to make it happen. Look at your list of things you want to commit to doing this year. Is it possible you’re overreaching? Think of how fast this last year went. Perhaps consider dialing a few things back and maybe leave saving the whole earth for next year.
This isn’t a “to do” list as much as it is a gauge by which to check your progress periodically to make sure you’re spending time, thoughts and energy on what truly matters to you.
Next, goals work better when you’re specific. Pulling from the classic book of resolutions: “losing weight” is less effective than, say, “be able to zip up my winter coat this time next year.” Which, by the way, worked for me this year. Plus, I was warmer.
For years, getting out of debt was on my list. And yet, we kept digging ourselves deeper into it, $30 at a time, by not fortifying our resolve with an action plan.
Last year, we finally adopted an ambitious plan. And this year, for the first time since college, I don’t have dealing with credit card debt on my list.
It feels pretty awesome. But it took plenty of sacrificing at the Hardy household.
That brings me to my next tip.
After you identify a few top priorities you want to pursue this year, be willing to let the rest take a back seat. For instance, I had “read more” on my list from last year, setting my sights on 13 books.
In fact, I read exactly one book actually written for an adult audience. The rest don’t count, because they had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lightning McQueen and Elmo as their main characters.
Also, every year since I was 9, I’ve had “finish writing my book” on the list. Every year, I get just a little closer to that goal — except that I keep starting new ones.
Imagine the library I’ll have when I make it a resolution to “finish what I’ve started.”
Don’t be afraid to make resolutions you might not be able to keep. Life happens.
If it keeps showing up on your list, and eventually rises to the top, you’ll find a way to follow through.
In the movie “Star Wars,” Yoda famously said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Note, the pointy-eared Jedi did not say, “Get it right perfectly the first time or don’t bother starting.”
Be willing to step up to bat and take a swing. Let yourself be a beginner. You might surprise yourself and get a few resolutions crossed off your list once and for all.
So what does this topic have to do with raising my own Hardy boys?
Being grounded in all the parts of me is essential to making me whole as a mother. It’s easy to lose my balance between being the mom I want to be and the me I used to be.
Writing down my resolutions, which range from personal goals to parenting ones, this process highlights where I’m successful as well as identifying my weak spots. This tradition keeps me on the right track, or at least provides a map for when I get derailed.
Still not down with resolutions? Try writing a personal manifesto. If that smacks of a Language Arts assignment you’d just as soon skip, how about simply choosing a personal mantra for the year?
Still not sure you want to spend a few moments thinking about what you want to make happen this year?
Let me close with this question posed by Mary Oliver in her poem “The Summer Day:”
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Do you make resolutions? Thinking of doing it this year? I’ll be sharing more on this topic, such as how to measure and track progress on your resolutions once you’ve set them, as well as a list of my intentions, via Nathalie’s Notes on Facebook and my blog at www.nathaliesnotes.typepad.com.
Nathalie Hardy can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.