This is my blog page

The Key to Keeping Your Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions.  Some people make them every year, some never do.  Some of us occasionally try a few, thinking either “This time I’ll make real changes,” or, “What do I have to lose?”  Which kind of person are you?

Around January 1st, the media is full of “how to keep your resolutions” advice.  I noticed several articles this year with reasonably helpful suggestions.  Time and the Wall Street Journal both ran pieces worth reading, and eHow and resource articles contributed to the discussion.

Now, in mid-February, bringing up New Year’s resolutions and asking whether you are making progress towards your goals looks suspiciously like an exercise in guilt-slinging.  But I’m coming from an entirely different perspective.  I know lasting change is hard to achieve.

Let me say that again.  Lasting change is hard to achieve.  I want to see you fulfill your dreams and reach your goals.  I want you to experience life in a full and satisfying way.  And I want you to have the best chance possible to become the person you are meant to be.  And so I have a message for you about how to keep New Year’s resolutions, or Valentine’s Day resolutions, or Easter resolutions – any time is the right time to step out in a new and better direction.

Let’s start with one of the resolution “how-to” lists I mentioned above, which is fairly representative of the more helpful offerings.  Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal lists these very practical suggestions:

  1. Take one step at a time
  2. Get a little help from your friends
  3. Change your environment
  4. Announce your intentions
  5. Figure out your attachment to bad habits
  6. Expect setbacks

I think these are all valuable suggestions.  You’ve heard me before on the value of not getting ahead of yourself, living one day at a time, seeking support, forgiving yourself, and being realistic.  But something essential and supremely valuable is missing from this list, and from every other list I’ve ever seen – something without which I believe real change becomes impossible.

The essential, almost secret ingredient for success, the absolutely necessary thing for keeping your resolutions, is the priceless quality of hope.  You must seek hope – in the midst of the difficulties and challenges of life – in spite of pain, doubt, and discouragement.  It’s not easy, especially now, during 2010, one of the most challenging new years for our nation.

In economic terms, things don’t look good right now.  Life as we’ve known it has been turned upside down.  To thrive during these hard times, you must learn a new way of living – living from a place deep within yourself that seeks out hope.

It’s important for you to begin to understand what happens when you face real challenges.  Today’s struggles can and will trigger things that happened in your past, during other difficult and frightening times.  If you are having difficulty providing financially for your family, or facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, it will bring up memories of other times when you experienced failure, shame, and regret.  Your outlook on the future can become flooded with overwhelming, negative emotions.  It can become hard in the present to see beyond your leftover, debilitating emotional reactions.

Here’s a resolution I want you to make, now.  Call it a For-All-Time resolution.  Resolve to seek a clearer, more hopeful life.  Resolve to work toward understanding your old emotional reactions, and not letting them dictate how you look at the future.  Giving in to negativity, fear, and hopelessness will darken your vision.  When we see clearly – not with vision blurred by the past – we can always find precious opportunities in the present.

Make a new habit; embrace a new way, the way of hope.  It won’t be easy, but it’s the only way that works.  This message is for you, this message is for me – it’s for every one of us.