New Year's Resolutions: Life Changing Opportunity or Set Up for Failure?
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Making Reasonable Resolutions
It's that time of year again. Time for new year's resolutions. Some of us make resolutions every year and spend weeks or months in advance thinking about what those resolutions will be. Some of us only make resolutions because somehow, over the years, it's become expected. Everyone thinks they are mandated to have one. The other thing we have in common is that once we've made our resolutions we quickly forget them. Granted, some of us actually make a valiant effort to stick to them for a few weeks, but then real life intervenes and our resolutions fall by the wayside like broken promises.
Most resolutions are abandoned for two reasons: (1) we were never really serious about them to begin with and (2) they were not realistic.
For example, one of the most common resolutions is to lose weight. That's a very great resolution because many of us actually need to lose weight and getting in shape and feeling healthier are critical goals for many people. But consider this, if you have never been successful at losing weight in the past, is it realistic to resolve to lose 20, 30 or 50 pounds in the new year? Probably not. Losing weight is a process that involves a complete mental and physical transformation. It is part of a lifestyle change, not a transient process. It won't be successfully achieved in the long term through fad diets or working out to the point of exhaustion at a pace that you can't sustain in the long run.
Those for whom weight loss is a resolution might consider the following:
CURRENT RESOLUTION: I will lose 50 lbs. in the new year.
BETTER RESOLUTION: I will alter my lifestyle to achieve greater health in the new year.
The latter may sound vague, but that's okay. You can start planning the logistics of what that means as part of your lifestyle transformation. Perhaps it means switching from regular to diet soda, or giving up soda altogether. Perhaps it means fitting in 20 minutes or more of exercise two to three times per week. It might also include getting a minimum number of hours of sleep as a matter of course. Perhaps it means eating slightly smaller portions of meat or fattier foods and increasing your serving size of vegetables and fruits. There are many ideas that you can incorporate here. The key is the make them realistic for your life so that you can sustain them. The weight isn't going to fall off magically. It will be a gradual process, but it will happen and you'll love the results and the fact that you can sustain them.
Another resolution I hear a lot is, "I'm going to get a better job." That's not a bad resolution because everyone deserves to be as happy and successful in their career as they possibly can, but I'm not sure how achievable the goal is, unless you have a concrete idea about what "a better" job is. Is it one in which you make more money? That's usually what people mean when they talk about getting a better job. But with more money comes infinitely more responsibility. That in turn takes you away from your family and leaves less time for engaging in the things you like to do socially. Most of us tend to have the "grass is always greener" mentality, when in fact, the grass is either just as green, or perhaps even a bit more brown on the other side. If your goal is to "get a better job," you must first reflect on exactly what it is that makes your current position so intolerable. If this is your resolution, consider the following:
CURRENT RESOLUTION: I'm going to get a better job in the new year.
BETTER RESOLUTION: I'm going to make the most of my current employment.
The latter gives you room to improve your satisfaction by doing a few things. You can work harder, assuring you're always on time, efficient and engage in healthy teamwork. You can take more initiative. You can vie for a promotion. You can improve relationships with coworkers that typically rub you the wrong way. You can dress for success. You can serve as a mentor for others. You can join committees and share innovative ideas. You can plan the company Christmas party. You can recognize the anniversaries, birthdays and promotions of others. In the end, your improved performance will be its own reward, giving you the job satisfaction you are seeking. Your own happiness starts with you!
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If you happen to be someone that is simply in a mismatched career (i.e. you are working as a waitress instead of using your college degree to your advantage, or you are working in a day care center even though you don't like children), then yes, you should be seeking alternate employment in a new industry. But choose wisely. If you settle for the first job that comes along merely to escape the misery in your current job, you will soon be miserable again.
My favorite resolution is, "I resolve never to make another new year's resolution!" I love this resolution because it enables me to fully embrace the following philosophies:
- Live each day to the fullest
- Assess the need for change as it presents itself
- Choose life's battles wisely
- Always try to keep things in perspective
- Know that each unhappy or unpleasant experience will pass
- There is always someone out there in more dire circumstances than you
- You can be happy almost every day but no one is happy every moment of every day.
Have a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!
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