Following are some common New Year resolutions:
~ read more, take a class
~ lose weight, exercise, eat right ~ meditate/pray, attend worship services
~ volunteer, nurture important relationships
~ pay off credit cards, strike a better work/life balance
Resolutions can set us on course for a new start, a fresh beginning, a chance to change, and to become a better and healthier person. For many of us the New Year is about resolving to be different and to do different in various aspects of our life. Things usually go well for a while but then we often find ourselves slipping back into old patterns of thought and behavior. It’s been said that many people look forward to the New Year for a new start of old habits! What to make of this predictable demise of our best intentions? Are we not sincere about changing? Are we not strong enough or committed enough to stay the course?
As I try to make sense of my failed resolutions I’ve come to the conclusion that I have something to learn from them. I now view my failed attempts at self-improvement as an invitation to embrace myself as I am – flaws included. I have found if lasting change is to take root it must be grounded in the good soil of self-acceptance, the loving embrace of the persons we are for better and for worse. Despite my impulse to judge and berate myself when I fail to remain faithful to my resolutions, I now realize it’s more important to be forgiving and compassionate than demanding and impatient, for despite well-meaning resolutions we are likely to remain essentially who we are.
Jewish scholar and author Martin Buber tells a story about Zyusha who aspired to live an exemplary life: “How can someone as lowly as I possibly live like Moses?” the disciple Zyusha asked. “When you die,” the rabbi answered, “you will not be asked, ‘why were you not Moses?’ You will be asked, ‘Why were you not Zyusha?’” Having people we look up to can be a good thing, but trying to become like Moses or whomever we admire is a problem that playwright Oscar Wilde put in perspective when he said: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken!”
Along with the importance of self-acceptance, the other lesson my failures have taught me is that being too serious and trying too hard to make changes is often counter-productive. Relaxing into our resolutions allows for a gradual transformation, one that is patient and gentle with the usually halting process of change and growth. Without this attitude we are more likely to throw in the towel the first time we falter.
If you have made any New Year resolutions I hope you realize them. But even more, I hope you go gently in their direction always remembering the wisdom of the term “lighten up!”