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In Sight of Ourselves: 11 Resolution (December 28, 2001)

Here it is. A new year, another opportunity for a new year's resolution, another opportunity for disappointment. "This year, I am going to [fill in the blank]." The word resolute has the same origin as the word solution. To make a resolution is to reexamine a problem, break it into parts, and arrive at a solution.

I am not one for talking much about the importance of making New Year's resolutions. After the first few failures of ambition that appeared at this time of year in the past, I resolved to make no more resolutions. As I ponder the meaning of the word, though, it appears I will be unable to keep that promise as well.

A true resolution is more an intention to act, than to achieve a final goal. Too often, we set an ambitious goal that covers too large a time span. We want to leap from one building to another rather than walk up one flight of steps. Instead of making a goal a resolution, we might be more effective if we found a solution in a commitment to action. Instead of saying, "I'm going to lose "x" amount of weight in one year, it might be better to say, "Tomorrow, I am going to eat healthy and exercise more." Then tomorrow I could set a new action goal for the following day. After a few more daily resolutions are achieved, I might be ready to take on a weekly resolution.

Here are a few more ideas for you to consider.

Make sure the action you promise yourself to take is within your reach. If it is too ambitious, then failure is likely. Discouragement is the biggest obstacle to achievement. If I am having a problem with a child, I have to look at all parts of that problem and decide what part I might be successful at changing.

Focus on an action you take, not someone else's behavior. Far better to promise ourselves, "Tomorrow I will spend at least ten minutes playing with my son when I get home from work," rather than, "Tomorrow, my son will behave better."

Be specific. Vague action goals give little direction and provide fewer opportunities for achievement. Saying, "I'm going to be nice to my children" is not as effective as saying, "Tomorrow night, I am going to read them a bedtime story."

Make resolutions the machinery that serves your priorities. Resolving to keep a room tidy when your family is falling apart is like worrying about how we look when the Titanic is sinking. It may serve as a momentary distraction, but the bigger, more important problems deserve greater attention.

So on New Year's Eve, I will resolve to take action on January 1, and just maybe the day after that as well. Sometimes big goals start with baby steps.

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