Ending one year and beginning a new year always brings us to reflect upon our lives and what we have accomplished and what we wish to accomplish. Many of us go about setting New Year’s resolutions, goals, dreams and ambitions of what we want to do with ourselves during the next year. This can be a great adventure to look back and to look forward. May I recommend a few suggestions for resolution making?
1. When looking back on your year and considering how things went, focus on the good things, the things you did accomplish, the goals you did reach and the many blessings you have in your life. You may think that nothing good happened and that you were not blessed, but if you look hard enough and try to find the good you will find it.
2. While you are looking forward do not just write down a vague end result you wish to achieve as a resolution. Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar to you:
“How frequently we find ourselves at the year’s end solemnly penciling resolutions that we promise to keep during the coming year, only to discover that by January 30 our behavior and attitudes are no different than they were on December 30. Ever so imperceptibly, we slide back into former habits and our conventional hardening of the categories. We mentally place our resolutions in a drawer beneath our socks and handkerchiefs, take out our glittering set of rationalizations, and place them prominently on top of the dresser. We then joke with our friends regarding all of our broken resolutions, and they commiserate with our plight, for they, too, have broken theirs.” (Spencer J. Condie, “1975. What Will You Do with It?”, Ensign, Jan. 1975, 20)
That happens because most of our resolutions have been as simple as “lose 15 pounds” or “save for a down payment on a house” or something else vague and basically meaningless. Instead, we should choose goals that matter to us personally on a deeper level than what we think others expect or want us to do.
With this we should also give our motivation. Why do we want to lose 15 pounds or save money for a down payment? Spencer J. Condie, who originally shared that scenario above, gave an example of some resolutions he was making in 1975. His resolutions give us a pattern we can follow that may help us see better end results.
“I will improve my prayers. Dr. Stephen R. Covey, another BYU friend, assures us that if we spend half an hour each day with the Lord in daily prayer, we will spend eternity with Him. Instead of occasionally skipping family prayer because I’m late for work, I am going to adhere to a schedule that insures adequate time for prayer. Instead of repetitiously asking the Lord to bless the poor and needy, I will strive to be an instrument in his hands by giving a more generous fast offering, visiting the needy, etc.”
If you paid attention while reading this, you will notice that he does not just say “I will improve my prayers,” but he gives reasons as to why he wants to improve his prayers, why he feels it is important to do so.
From this example we learn another principle of proper goal setting. After he gives his reasons as to why he wants to do this, he gives methods or ways that he can do it. For example, rather than saying “I will lose 15 pounds,” we could say “I will lose 15 pounds. I know that my body is a great gift and blessing from my Heavenly Father and I should take care of it. He has given guidelines to us to keep our bodies healthy showing me that it is important to strive for this. In order to lose the weight, I will go for a 30 minute run three times a week. I will stop purchasing soda drinks and I will eat balanced meals.”
3. In addition to giving a reason for your resolution and giving ways to reach it, setting smaller more manageable goals will help us reach a larger goal for the year. In the example of losing 15 pounds, we may set smaller goals to lose 5 pounds by April 15, lose 5 pounds by August 15 and lose the other 5 pounds by Christmas. By setting small goals to help us reach our larger resolutions, we are setting ourselves up for success.
4. After we set our resolutions, we should put them in a place that we will often be reminded of them and maybe in more than one such place. By consistently seeing our resolutions, we do not forget them or the motivation behind them. This will make us more accountable to ourselves. For even more chance of success, you could give a copy of your resolutions to a trusted friend or family member who can periodically check up with you to see how you are coming along. This will make you not just accountable to yourself but to someone else.
5. For some people, the satisfaction alone of accomplishing a goal may not be enough, especially at first. In this case we may consider tacking on a reward or consequence to our resolutions. However, this only works if you stick to your guns and actually follow through with the resulting action. This is much more effective if you have a trusted friend checking up on you. Over time and when resolutions are made with the proper motivations, the satisfaction will come from reaching or exceeding your goal. You will find a sense of happiness and joy when you truly accomplish a resolution that has meaning to you. This will motivate you to continue on and reach even higher next time.
6. My last suggestion is that your resolutions be more personal than they may have been before. When we change our attitudes, actions and outlook on life we can do so much more that is good. Sometimes what we think is the thing we need to change is merely a result of something else. We should honestly sit down and evaluate our emotional and spiritual health as we set our goals, because by changing these deeper and more fundamental parts of ourselves, we will change much more in our lives including some of the things we may have set resolutions to overcome.
For this introspection and deeper goal setting, turn to your Father in Heaven. Ask for His guidance to show you the way and be open to accepting that guidance. After you make your resolutions ask for his help to accomplish them. He will give you great strength to achieve more than you thought possible.
Let me finish with a final thought and some of my resolutions as set by my great, great, great grandfather.
In Christian Frederick Nielsen Twede’s day book, that’s my great, great, great grandfather’s journal, on 1 February 1887 he wrote the following “Rules for the day.”
- Secret Prayer
- Keep your tongue in check
- Suppress anger
- Consider the effect of every action before doing it
- Cultivate humility and charity
- Let love be the mainspring of all your actions
- Think of Christ as He hangs on the cross
- Stop work when tired
- Do not eat, drink, or sleep more than is needed
- Consider that others do not look on things as you do and are different from yourself and can be right although opposite to you in many things
- Remember you are never alone. Therefore, do nothing that you would not do in the presence of angels
“O God, help me to keep these rules is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Signed, C.F.N. Twede”
I am setting some of my new year’s resolutions based on these rules for the day.
Final thought: Reach for the heavens! My favorite musical is Mary Poppins. Towards the end is a fantastic song called “Anything Can Happen.” At one point Mary sings that “if you reach for the stars, all you get are the stars … if you reach for the heavens, you get the stars thrown in.”
May the New Year bring you many great and wonderful adventures, and may God bless you in your endeavors to better your life and the lives of those around you. Happy New Year!