Resolutions Redesigned

by Belinda Munoz on January 4, 2010

champagne

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

A little exploring, a dash of relaxing, a touch of indulging and a lot of silly-making with my boys and voila, my two-week vacation is lived fully with not a single regret.

Ostrich farms and California missions, coastal towns, a pair of regal Clydesdale horses and a certain tiny glass-blowing, wine-making town that Rudolf Valentino once visited with a population of 18(!) whose name is synonymous to “accord” — fondly and warmly tucked away in ever-growing memory banks to be retrieved at later dates.

The tunes of Billie Holiday, Prince and Earth Wind & Fire fill the house once again replacing the ringing of jingle bells. The tree and all the decorations are put away and once again, my lived-in living room is recognizable, comfortable and pine scent-less.  It’s good to be home.

WHAT’S THE QUESTION?

So here I am, a few days into the new year with lingering feelings about the past year.  Uncertain about the future. Yet steeped in certainty that there’s nothing we can do — to hold on to a great year, to delay the devastation that climate change brings, to avoid being another year older — to stop time.  The flip side is also true.  There is not a whole lot we can do to speed up our civilization’s progress in many areas such as women’s equality, our collective pysche’s maturity, or changing the world for the better.

How do we deal?  As big-thinking as many of us are, often the most effective way to deal is on a microcosmic level, by starting with our individual selves.  We make resolutions — half-believing they’ll come true; half-knowing that any of them could lose traction for whatever reason at any given time.  As optimistic as we allow ourselves to be with the potential improvements within our grasp, we all know that real change takes time.

ARE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS THE ANSWER?

I’m an advocate of all good things that help add meaning to our days and nights.  But let’s be honest.  We all have enough experience playing the new year’s resolution game.  We start out all excited about how we will make over parts of our lives.  Committed, focused, determined.

But you see, regardless of how quickly time flies, a year IS a long time.  Within a 365 day duration, there are many opportunities to get derailed, sometimes through our own vulnerabilities and other times through no fault of our own.

What happens 2 weeks (a mere 14 days!) into the year if we falter?  What happens if a few days into our resolution, we realize our heart’s not in it, it’s not right for us or we don’t see why we once thought it was a good idea?  Do we feel bad?  Do we feel trapped?  Are we flattened?  Is our confidence a bit shaken?  Do we start over? 

  • NEW SEASON RESOLUTION The length of 365 days is too long to sustain the excitement of our good intentions, especially if they’re mostly optional.  I just can’t see myself integrating strength-training into my regular exercise regimen for the entire year.  I’d like to try it but I’m just not sure it’s something I want to commit to.  So why not do a new season resolution?  Here’s what I’ve planned (so far so good!) for the winter:
    1. Revel in going with the flow while on vacation or during down time
    2. Take in the different smells of the season — love the smell of firewood burning and wintry vegetables roasting in the oven; not sure how I feel about the scent of the bitter cold air but at least it’s got me paying attention
    3. Pull out of circulation any piece of clothing that my son has outgrown and put in storage or pass on to smaller toddlers
    4. Celebrate Capricorn and Aquarius birthdays
    5. Track/Submit end-of-year charitable matching gifts — my employer has a generous matching gift policy that I like to take advantage of

Ahh, I feel great knowing I’ve kept up with more than half of the items on this list.  I’m so fired up that I can’t wait to start on my spring resolutions.

  • NEW MONTH RESOLUTION Even better than a new season resolution is a new month resolution for those who, like me, prefer to sample a buffet of activities than to commit to a prix fixe menu.  Here’s what I have in mind for January:
    1. Stop complaining about the cold (easy, bundle up or turn on the heat)
    2. Try at least one new machine at the gym
    3. Re-connect with my productive self (hello, daily chores are productive now that I’m home again, and I’m looking forward to going back to work)
    4. Embrace uncertainty; it keeps me on my toes and provides opportunities for pleasant surprises
    5. Pick a host and venue for my son’s birthday party (yes, we get offers each year)

By now I’m feeling like a rock star because I’m on top of most of the things on this list and I still have many days to go before the month is over. 

  • LOW TO NO COMMITMENT RESOLUTIONS
    • Weekly resolutions — It may be tempting to think of resolutions at this level as more of a weekly to-do list.  Or we could look at it as bite-size commitments.  Try an array of resolutions and see what sticks.  The appeal is that you only try something new for 7 days. If at the end of 7 days, you don’t see its value and have no desire to continue, you can drop it guilt-free.  How is that not a good thing?
    • Daily resolutions — What I love about this is the mindfulness inherent in the concept.  Every day, you get to choose what you’d like to do to add value to your day.  You could experiment by saying only positive things one day then only doing the things you feel like doing the next day.  Could be fun!
    • No resolutions — Resolutions hold no appeal to many who prefer to honor their freedom and flexibility.  These folks do what they’d like to do when they know they’re ready.  Can’t argue with that!

FEELING GREAT

As you can see, resolutions are not designed for self-punishment as I so often thought in my much younger days.  They don’t have to be difficult.  In fact, most experts advise us to start really, really small.  To take on something we know we can do very easily.  By doing so, we allow for a high probability for feeling good about who we are, where we are in our journey and how far we’ve come.  These are easy ways to boost our happiness, so why not?  After all, who says there’s only one right way to make a resolution?

ALL ABOUT YOU

What do you think?  Did you make any new year’s resolutions or are you on an alternative path?  Do you have any thoughts, plans, wishes, predictions or dreams you’d like to share?

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January 4, 2010 at 10:14 am

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1 Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities January 4, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I have never been big on making resolutions. I am not sure why. I have no philosophical reasons for not doing so. I guess I just think that we should always strive to change and better ourselves and our lives and it is somewhat arbitrary to commence these projects at the stroke of midnight on one random day… I do find the idea of fashioning smaller resolutions to be quite compelling. As Seth Godin likes to remind us, “small is the new big.”

A very happy new year to you and yours!

Reply

2 Belinda Munoz January 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Hi Aidan, I agree with you. I think we should always strive for improvement without missing out on the value of the process or any kind of happiness we encounter along the way.

I used to make New Year’s resolutions back in the day because of my love affair with beginnings. Predictably, I often wound up feeling bad if I miss a day of workout or succumb to a craving for chocolate. I was harder on myself than I needed to be which would lead to unhappiness which would lead to negativity.

Now, I still love beginnings but I do so much better with short-term projects like cleaning out my closet or getting creative in the kitchen for my family. The little things count for a lot.

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3 Patty - Why Not Start Now? January 4, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Hi Belinda – What a zestful post! I love the energy of it, the movement, the little windows you give us into your life and your spirit. I had to look up the town you so coyly talk about…is it Harmony? You must have been on a Central Coast adventure. Anyway, yours is the first post I’ve read since coming back from my own vacation, and it hits just the right note. I’m smiling right now. I’m not exactly doing resolutions this year, but I love your take on them. Very life affirming.

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4 ayo January 4, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Happy new year to you belinda,
Wishing you all the good things in life.
Lovely article here!!! It speaks volumes and provides clarity to some issues. Did I make any new year resolutions? No!! I wrote down a few ideas, mapped out what to do and planned ahead for the family. I’m going to work hard to implement them, but take things one step at a time, moving from simple to complex issues.
Take care of yourself
Ayo

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5 Belinda Munoz January 4, 2010 at 10:10 pm

@Patty, so good to hear from you! I’m not surprised that you figured out the name of the town! We visited two of my favorite CA towns, SLO and Solvang and a few other beach towns. Talk about charm for days! I’m glad this post made you smile.

@Ayo, you are one of those genuinely gracious people, aren’t you! I’m glad you mention the process of implementing plans. It’s the simple stuff that are really the building blocks for the complex issues. Yes, the ideas can be big, but every beginning consists of small steps.

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6 Nicki January 5, 2010 at 4:31 am

I have read and re-read many blog entries on resolutions since the holidays began. I have written a few, too. I love your take on things. I also love that you break things down into a new month, a new week. These are important parts of our lives and need the same attention a new year gets.

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7 Shell January 5, 2010 at 9:29 am

I’m one of those people who like freedom and flexibility. So resolutions are not my thing.
I feel doing daily tasks toward what we love is much better and gets us closer to our goals and dreams.

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8 Belinda Munoz January 5, 2010 at 6:16 pm

@Nicki, I love that you love my take on things. I’m working on mindfulness and it’s a struggle at times. I like the challenge of a resolution but need accountability and deadlines — things I do great with. I think that we need to customize our tools if we’re to count on them working for us ergo the redesign of an old construct.

@Shell, welcome to The Halfway Point! I like freedom and flexibility myself (thank goodness I’ve managed to stay away from prisons 🙂 ) I know myself and I know that I’ll slip and fall over and over so some days, I know I’ll be opting for no resolutions. Thanks for the visit!

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9 Jeanne January 5, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Really nice reminder, Belinda, that the “resolutions tradition” isn’t written in stone! Nice reminder of the flexibility of choosing how we eat an elephant (as in, one little bite at a time). As for me, I don’t doNew Year resolutions. I do daily intentions. I can deal with a day at a time, LOL!

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10 Belinda Munoz January 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Hi Jeanne, ha ha, cheers to one bite at a time! I like the term daily intentions.

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