Thursday, January 01, 2009


That time again.

Time to start on the list-- however short or long-- of things we need to do to make ourselves better. Time to take a hard look at our lives and figure out what needs some minor tweaking (or major reconstruction).

Time for the New Year's Resolution(s).

For some people, that is.

I have long found it curious that someone would choose one short period per year to work on self improvement. It seems to subtract from the sincerity of the act of resolving, rendering it more an ephemeral fancy than something to be taken seriously.

~~ “It is always during a passing state of mind that we make lasting resolutions.” --Marcel Proust ~~

The sad truth is that for most people, the New Year's Resolution is a short-lived attempt to make one feel better about oneself. Usually, the thing is relegated to the dust-bin of personal history after a brief, if sincere, effort. It follows all the other faddish things that burned hot for a minute, before flaming out in the harsh cold of reality.

Still, there is no arguing the importance of seeking self improvement. Why, then, does our society reserve the process only for the new year? Perhaps it's indicative of a society that is too busy for daily personal reflection, but still recognizes the need for it and so makes it into a custom of sorts.

~~ “Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.” --Eric Zorn ~~

They do get broken, don't they? Should we assume that is because people are inherently weak and unable to improve themselves? That is certainly true of some folks-- I can attest to that. In the macro sense, though, I'm not so sure it is that simple.

As humans, we are hard-wired to think about ourselves. Call it selfishness or call it a survival mechanism-- it is real. We always think of and look out for number one. So it really shouldn't be a trick to figure out what needs a'changin' and then change it. Right?

~~ “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” --Benjamin Franklin ~~

Sounds simple enough. Why, then, do the resolutions continue to break like fine crystal on a granite counter? Why do people go through the rituals and effort and expense-- only to fail again and again?

I say it's because of the once a year timetable. How is one supposed to be proficient in the process of successful resolving with only one time per year to practice it?

~~ “Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” --Oscar Wilde ~~

A writer cannot compose one piece of work per year and remain in top form. A football player can't play one game per year and expect to be a champion.

No. The truth is that one has to make resolution a regular part of the life cycle. One must practice it in all things, great and small-- making it very much a part of one's regular operation. The all-important fire of Resolve will burn only in the heart that keeps its flames stoked.

~~ “Be stirring as the time, be fire with fire, threaten the threatener, and outface the brow of bragging horror; so shall inferior eyes, that borrow their behaviours from the great, grow great by your example and put on the dauntless spirit of resolution.” –William Shakespeare ~~

It is through the practice of simple, daily resolutions that greater ones will succeed. It is only in making Resolve a personal sacrament that we will achieve the elusive improvement that all people should seek.

How can one begin to get in this desirable and beneficial habit? At the risk of over-simplification, I think that resolving to resolve would be a good place to start.

~~ “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” --Abraham Lincoln ~~

There it is, then: we practice to succeed by resolving to succeed in all things. The little ones do matter-- I cannot stress that enough, can I?

I certainly do not intend this as an advice column to be taken as gospel from someone who knows "The Truth." The fact is, I find myself caught up in the resolution struggle as much as anyone. It's just that I long ago started asking myself about the value of doing it once a year... and I have been working on it since then. Just trying to think of it often is half the battle.

~~ “Clothe with life the weak intent, let me be the thing I meant.” --John Greenleaf Whittier ~~

For me as a Catholic, the season of Lent is an amazing time to practice Resolve. It is marvelously satisfying to me to take the forty-day journey into myself every year... seeking to come out of it better and somehow cleaner than before.

~~ “Resolve, and thou art free.” --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~~

Even during ordinary days and weeks, though, we can and should practice. Resolve is a truly powerful weapon that we humans possess-- even if many of us do not yet know how to use it. Once we do, though, great things happen.

~~ “You may be whatever you resolve to be.” --Thomas Stonewall Jackson ~~

With true Resolve, one can begin to see obstacles as invitations to courage.

~~ “Either I will find a way, or I will make one.” --Philip Sidney ~~

Finally, once one learns to use Resolve, life becomes much more under the control of the self... and less under the control of chaos.

~~ “Those who resolve to conquer or die, are rarely conquered.” --Pierre Coneille ~~

Happy New Year!!




Blogger Barbara said...

I don't like to make new year's resolutions and never have. But, this year, I was reading a blog and the person talked about changing her ways instead of making resolutions that might last a few weeks at the most.

Well, I immediately thought about doing things that I procrastinate about. I got up promptly, removed the manger scene from my entertainment center shelf, threw out the wilted greenery and redid the shelf completely. Now, tonight, I am going to take down my Christmas tree, something I have never done on New Years. As I said, I am a procrastinator!

I am going to start cutting things out of magazines I have saved, put them into a booklet, and throw the books away! This person also gave me that idea! In other words, get rid of the clutter in my life! I think our houses would look much better.

Also, I plan to exercise, but it's not a resolution, a necessity! I sort of quit after I did my rehab when I broke my hip. I was walking 2 miles per day and just quit after a few months. I can tell the difference in my stamina!

1/1/09 13:59  
Blogger kmg said...

Good for you, Barbara! Man, I wish I had that much energy today!

I didn't say as much in the column, but a good, motivated start is a strong way to get these things on track... and one of the keys to keeping them going after the New Year's tag wears off.

1/1/09 18:01  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gosh, I might be a procrastinator tonight! My husband got me to watching a Richard Gere/Julia Roberts movie, and hasn't taken the boxes down for me to take down my tree. I'll blame it on him. LOL!!

1/1/09 18:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very, very important to have someone to blame at all times! I like to blame the kids a lot.


2/1/09 14:01  
Anonymous Jesska said...

Great, great, great column. Self Improvement is something most all people think about day-to-day (why self-help and improvement books/tapes/whatever sell so damn much) but when things get tough (i.e. the magic pill is actually hard work and stick-to-it-ivness) it's easier to fall back into old patterns.
Ben Franklin was the master of self improvement towards the end of his life, charting out in unbelievable detail the flaws he saw within himself and I find journals and charts to really help me too. Another really important part of successful Resolutions is to acknowledge when you're doing good and keep going--even if you screw up a bit, don't just let in snowball into nothing.
Oh, and Barbara: You should wait until the 6th of January to take down your lights/tree because there are 12 days of Christmas! You weren't procrastinating at all!!! :-)

4/1/09 00:08  
Blogger Barbara said...

Jesska, I haven't taken them down. I just found out from a pastor's wife (friend) about the Old Christmas. I had never heard of it. So I will wait until after January 6th! I have 2 days to go. Ah, it might stay up longer than that. Is there a Old New Year? :)

4/1/09 07:14  

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