Never Made One Yet
The first time I encountered the term, New Year’s Resolution, was in the comic strip, Peanuts, by Charles M. Shultz. I was 8, maybe 9, years old, and Peanuts was the top comic in the Chicago Tribune. As I went through the comic strips that day, making resolutions was a recurring theme in them.
I found the idea of New Year’s Resolutions curious, and I wondered why I’d never heard of them. I sought out the only available expert I knew. I asked my mom.
My mom answered, “Because most folks make resolutions and forget them the very next day. That’s just not how most people change.”
I can still tap into the relief I felt when she said that. My imagination had made this ferocious picture of what a resolution was. I had seen myself climbing into a splintery, wooden shipping crate labeled “FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH NO HOPE OF EVER GETTING OUT.”
Thanks to that conversation about New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve never made made one yet.
New Year’s Resolutions a New Approach
On Open Comment Night December 5th, the subject of New Year’s Resolutions came up. We agreed that they don’t work as a list. Christine Kane explained her approach was to choose a word. Ben took that idea back as the Absolute Best Way and described it on his Instigator Blog.
Boy, I sure like their ideas a lot!
But I need more than that to execute — if I want to make a positive change that will stay with me. So if Ben and Christine don’t mind, I’m going to expand on the spirit of their ideas, knowing they already “get” it.
How to Make Positive Changes that Have Meaning and Stick
Changing habits is hard to do. The hard part is getting the new ones to stick. It’s easier when we approach our habits the way we approach our tasks and our skills — knowing our goal, not taking on too much, and making use of the “do over” rule when we need it.
Here’s how to make your positive changes stick.
- Choose one thing to change. One thing done is always better than 12 things started. If you’re working on gratitude, you might narrow it to saying thank you and meaning it. If you’re working on snacking you might replace one snack food with a healthful one or one time that you snack with another activity.
- Write your choice down and define it as an objective. I will say thank you out loud and give a brief reason for my gratitude when folks do things simple for me, such as listen to my ideas, and I’ll note their response. Now you know it is that you’re going for and you’ve got a clear objective.
- Make it measurable and make a measurement goal that increases. The measure can be simple. It might be how many smiles a day you get. Without a measure though, a goal is easy to lose track of or forget. How will you know if you’re getting better without a measurement?
- Check in at the end of the day to see how you did. Record your measurement and compare it to yesterday. Plan for tomorrow, but don’t think about next year — that’s a lifetime away.
Forgive yourself when you slip or have a bad day. Everyone does that. Don’t give up — with that response no one ever would learn to bicycle, skate, or be a leader in any sense. Pick up where you left off, knowing the practice you already have will make the forward momentum that much easier.
Celebrate your successes when you have a great day. When you live up to the change you are going for, let yourself know that by doing something really cool with a friend, taking in a great movie, CD, or book, or whatever else feels like a reward.
- When the change is fully a part of you, go on back to choose another positive to add to what you do.
Changing habits is like taking on new skills. We need to make room to learn, see progress, dust off our mistakes, and celebrate our successes. We’ve been doing that since we went to school. It’s what learning is.
Take a word from Christine and Ben, don’t make a resolution. Make a change that is meaningful.
When you make a positive change that sticks, other positive things will happen too. You’ll also be changing the world just a bit.
New Year’s Resolutions. Positive changes in the world. Have you thought about this? The quickest way to change other folks’ behavior is to change our own?
Thank you for that.
–ME “Liz” Strauss