First appeared in Straits Time’s MIND YOUR BODY supplement, where Wendy had a column “Life Lessons” (2005-6).
Making and keeping new year resolutions
I am 32, an advertising executive and single. I used to make new year’s resolutions, like exercise more, work harder, be nicer to my parents, get a girlfriend. But year after year, my resolve starts to weaken by February. By the end of the year, I would be filled with regrets and guilt. It becomes harder and harder for me to make any new year’s resolution, and for me to believe that I will actually keep them.
I would really like 2007 to be different. Life is not really bad, I have a good job, and am not bad-looking. I would like to achieve my dreams and goals in 2007. Can you tell me how I do that?
Many people make new year’s resolutions without first thinking deeply of what really matters to them, and the purpose of their aspirations. In addition, your ability to stick to your resolution starts to weaken due to various interferences in your life. Some of these interferences are not visible to your naked eye.
Every year, I set time aside during the last two weeks of the year to reflect on the passing year, and imagine what the next one can be. I would also facilitate a few processes with my team so they would also reflect, declare and imagine.
I suggest that you give yourself some time during the last week of 2006 or the first week of 2007 to do this.
First step is to acknowledge yourself for the moments in 2006 that you felt happy or proud. Thank the people in your lives for their support. You can do this acknowledgement by writing them down, drawing pictures or symbols, or talking about them to a friend. You only need about 30 mins to do this.
This step helps you to realize that you already have strengths and abilities and blessings in your life. With this affirmation, you can look to your future with optimism.
Second step is to acknowledge the regrets, guilt, anger and fears you faced in 2006. Write them down. Eg. I am angry that XYZ is greedy and selfish, I am afraid that I will not be promoted, I regret being lazy about my exercise, I am guilty that I spend too little time with my loved ones… Spend only 10 minutes on this.
When I do this part, a part of me start to say, “this fear is irrational, I will do something this regret…” This step is not meant for you to beat yourself up. On the contrary, this step is important because it helps you acknowledge what you need to let go. Many people allow their past baggage to drag them down in the present and the future.
Once you are done writing, you tear the paper up and throw the bits away. This symbolizes your willingness to let your past regrets and other negative experiences go. You have acknowledged their existence, and you are making a choice to be detached, not be haunted by them.
Third step is to see your future. Every year, I asked myself, “if this new year is my last year on earth, what would I want to create with my life?” Thus, you can ask yourself, “what if 2007 is my last year…?”
This is not about being morbid. Like my 11-year-old son said once, “everyday, we are closer to the day we die.” We just don’t know when.
Thus, it is about living your life purposefully and compassionately every year, every month, week, day and moment, like it counts.
When you look at 2007 with urgency, you will start to see what is truly meaningful to you. Most people realize that the people they are in relationships with are important. So they set goals to connect more with family and friends. Health, work and community service take on new meaning too.
In this third step, write or draw out how 2007 will be like for you. When you can see your goals clearly on one piece of paper, you will be more certain to take actions that get your closer to them.
These 3 steps are the beginning steps to make 2007 more fulfilling.
Then it will require discipline, determination, love and wisdom to take yourself to complete your own journey of 2007.
May you have the courage, wisdom and compassion to make 2007 special for yourself and others.