No More Resolutions

Ditch the resolutions this year, and try a Personal Mission Statement instead. Here's how. 

This is the time of year when it is most difficult to stay on track with our goals. It is also the time of year when we're all in a rush to make new ones.

It seems to me that we all have a certain ideal, a certain way of living, which gets completely blown each holiday season. 

We find it more difficult to stick to a well balanced diet because, every time we turn around, we are met with a truffle. Either the house is in shambles with dirty dishes, gift wrap paraphernalia, and tinsel and pine needles droppings, or we are not even home. We are out of our routine. Our minds are chattery. Our bodies are in crisis mode, searching in vain for some broccoli and a treadmill.

I would like to suggest that this is not the ideal time of year for any serious and purposeful reflection.

During the holidays, we are buried to the neck in "shoulds" and "should nots." We should not get snappy at Aunt Bernice. We should not be eating so much cream sauce on our vegetables. We should be spending at least an hour a day at the gym. We should be able to get through this holiday season with joy in our hearts and not a restless, impatience that comes from trying to squeeze too much from two weeks of our lives. 

It seems to me that most New Year's Resolutions are cleverly disguised and noble-sounding "shoulds." And who needs more of those right now?

In fact, this year, for me, there will be a paring down, and not a building up, of the shoulds. Over the past month, I have re-examined this list of perceived obligations to determine which belong there, and which (out of kindness and gentleness and plain and simple personal integrity) do not.

It started with a day of deliberateness; a day in which I questioned all of my assumptions. 

Before I popped anything into my mouth, I asked myself whether I liked its taste, or whether I was simply accustomed to it. Whether I was hungry or simply bored or frustrated or sad. 

I walked through my home, taking a long and deliberate look at the furnishings, decor, and knick knacks to see whether I truly liked them and whether they served any sort of meaningful purpose.

Then I took the same eye to my list of shoulds. The experience was really rather liberating. To attempt to adopt an unbiased perspective and asking: Do I really like this? Is this really good for me? Is this really important to me? 

At the end of such a day, I demanded honesty from myself as I answered: What do I truly value? What is most important to me? How important is my spirituality, my family, my professional identity?

Then I crafted two mission statements, one for me, and one for my work. Who am I? Who am I to be? 

This is such a wonderful instrument for clarifying your purpose in life. Your mission statement may include your values, your priorities, your philosophy, your commitments, your goals. How do you wish your children to live? Are you living in such a way?

It allows you to identify and define your life philosophy. Your spiritual beliefs. That which you find useful. That which you find beautiful.

When you define the end result, you have something to visualize. You have an end result. I have found it easier, throughout my life, to hold up an ideal of the way I want things to be and then to surrender the details. They do take care of themselves if given the chance. 

All you need to do is focus on the end result. What kind of a life do you want to lead? What kind of a person do you want to be? See it what that person looks like, how they behave, and what kinds of things they do an on a daily basis. When you can hold the vision of that person in your mind, you will have an easier time saying “no” to anything that betrays that image as it comes into your life. 

When you write such a statement, do so in the present tense. Sign the statement in bold ink and place it where you'll read it at the start of every day. 

Then expect a shake-up of your shoulds. You may be surprised at the subtraction of certain long-standing and familiar goals, and the addition of some unexpected 
new ones.

Don't rush the process. Let it rise organically from a careful study of your life and the way you endeavor to live it, deliberately.