Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Opinion: Resolutions require a healthy does of practical effort
Don't miss the forest for the trees.
If you are anything like me, you don’t get around to making those New Year’s resolutions, if you make them at all, until a few days after January 1. Harried holiday preparations, time spent with family and friends, and end of the year work projects allow little time for self-reflection.
Of course, in my case, it may be a big time dose of rationalization that keeps me from wanting to address the things in my life that I should change. For example, I can work every excuse in the book for skipping the gym (too tired, too busy, another story to write, too crowded at the gym, my work-out clothes are in the laundry – you get the picture) or for not eating healthy, or for not accomplishing the plethora of other "to do's" on my list.
As usual, I’ve considered the typical resolutions – weight loss, exercise, spending more time with family and friends, getting more organized, just saying no to more volunteering, less stress in my life – you know the drill. I’m guessing most of you can relate.
If I’m going to be completely honest, I failed dreadfully at most of last year’s resolutions. (Do I even remember what resolutions I made?) Hmmm – I was going to learn how to play the guitar – still not happening. I have a guitar readily accessible and can already read music, but I was simply too over-scheduled to find time to even think of picking up the guitar. The reality is that I didn't have time touch my piano more than a few times last year.
My plan to lead a less stressful life just didn’t happen. Really? As the owner of my business, what was I thinking? Like many of you, I get on that treadmill daily, and it’s just so, so difficult to jump off. I don’t travel without my laptop or iPad. If I do go out of town, breaking news always seems to occur, so I end up spending hours on the phone digging for information and further hours putting the story together.
The diet and exercise thing is always part of my list, so I don’t think it’s fair to list it, right? I’ve consistently hit the gym with the other gym rats I now know on a first name basis for the last 18 years of my life. (No wonder so many body parts are in a sate of disrepair – overuse!!) I’ve been on a perpetual diet since I reached puberty, (as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?” Not so great, Dr. Phil). But this past year I admittedly gave up on the diet, spent too much time eating my way through various foodie locations to the point that even SPANX will no longer rescue me. It’s time to make a change or risk an early grave.
Then, recently, I was saved – freed – from making the dreaded list of resolutions for 2013. A simple, although not new by any means, concept was introduced by the pastor at church. His message revolved around the many of us, myself included, make our list of New Year’s resolutions, but we rarely live our lives in a manner that supports them. In other words, there is incongruency between what we say our priorities are and what we, in actuality, do. Remember that old saying, “Actions speak louder than words?" I’m busted, my friends. Totally convicted.
I talk about putting God and family first, but I don’t always live my life in such a manner as to reflect that. I’m not displaying a very loving attitude when I yell (although inside my car, of course) at the “idiot” driver who, while texting, crosses into my lane, or the other “idiot” driver who pulls out in front of me. On many occasions, time with my family becomes time spent discussing work. Sometimes I am just too tired to get to church, or to attend church events, ignoring my need for spiritual food. Despite my time at the gym and claims of eating healthy, I am addicted to sugar and go through periods where I would practically claw someone's eye out to lay claims on the last brownie in the house.
I’m impatient, and often less than caring about others on the team than I should be, as I attack a project that needs to get done. I’m a perfectionist, and hold others, as well as myself, to a very high standard. I think that there is room for improvement in nearly everything I do. (If I don't, who will, right? Right.)
As I always say, there is a fine line where our strengths become our weaknesses and, sometimes, my strengths absolutely become my weaknesses. I’m an idea person, however, too many ideas and lack of follow through doesn’t make for a successful company. I’m a learner, but a continual search for more knowledge can sidetrack me from getting a task completed in time for deadlines. So I must tread carefully.
What does all this have to do with my freedom from making a list of resolutions for 2013? As years of therapy have underscored, the first step toward change is recognizing and accepting my shortcomings and flaws. I’m all over it, but I won’t bore you with the long list. (I’ve put my list together and it’s hanging in my office.) It’s also important to understand, recognize, and embrace my strengths, which I will continue to do.
Using these lists as a foundation, I’m prioritizing the things in my life that I want to change, and this year I’m mixing in a dose of reality. I can only do so much. So I will choose the top three priorities, which reflect the top three values in my life, and walk the talk. As many of the commercials for diet programs say at this time of year, this is not a diet, it's a lifestyle change. Yep, that's it – the light bulb moment for me.
I'm no different than most of you who are also super busy, consumed by the happenings of life on a daily basis. Work, family, church, community service, and keeping up friendships exhaust us to the bone. Life becomes a paradox – life gets in the way of making the changes we know we need to make.
A friend of mine says that New Year's resolutions are "absolutely ridiculous," asserting that we should not wait until the new year to make changes in our lives. "Fix what needs to be fixed, when it needs to be fixed," he says. I think that most of us do exactly that, but as a new year begins, we allow ourselves a little more time to reflect – to focus on the big picture. We view the new year as a time for possibility, a time that we can reinvent ourselves – a new year, a new you.
So, yes, for me, my "big picture" reflection ah-ha! moment points to a needed lifestyle change, totally. Instead of a long list of resolutions, I'm focusing on living my life in a way that supports the values that I tout. I think that working on change from this perspective will end up taking care of most of the list anyway. Old habits and behaviors are difficult to change, but practice makes perfect. It won’t be an overnight change, but I will keep at it and, just as we eat an elephant, one bite at a time, I will strive to exhibit a congruency between what I say and how I live my life. Surely, that will lead to less stress, right? I'm just saying!
Wishing you all a 2013 filled with less stress and much peace, love, and joy.
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