'Tis the season for inspirational columns, blogs and soundtrack-backed television segments about the power of New Year's resolutions. Over the coming days, everyone from Jon Stewart to Dr. Phil and from Barney Gumble to Matt Lauer will weigh in with advice for 2011.
Make no mistake, they have valuable opinions to share, and I'll do as much reading and listening as anyone. But if you're anything like me, and let's hope for your sake and for your community-at-large that you're not, by Jan. 15 you'll be seeing signs of slippage on whatever resolutions you make. By Feb. 1 you'll be hanging by a thread so thin you'd need a DNA microscope to find it. By March 1 you'll be selling that abdominal contraption on eBay. You know the one. It's that device that looks like a cross between a Big Wheel and something that you strap yourself into for a long ride to the International Space Station.
Who hasn't been there? I remember years ago a college buddy told me that once and for all he was going to give up Dr. Pepper on New Year's Day. He told me how proud he felt to walk into his closet, uncover his secret stash and pour it down the drain in his master bathroom. "I'll never drink another caffeinated soda," he told his wife. "This is the year."
Then on Jan. 4 he called me from his cell phone. He wanted me to know he hadn't just fallen off the wagon, it had backed up and run him over. I tried not to laugh as he described pulling open the heavy glass door of his favorite 7-Eleven, yanking up his hoodie, filling a Big Gulp with the "forbidden juice" and tossing the exact amount on the counter in stride as he rolled out before anyone could spot him. He drank it in his car, parked in the far corner of the employee lot at his office building and hid the collapsed evidence under his seat for disposal on the way home from work.
I found it funny then — and now — because I relate so well. Hard and fast resolutions are wonderful when we keep them. But when we don't, which happens much more often than not, we only remind ourselves we're not as perfect as we'd like to be.
In 2011, why don't we set five resolutions we can actually keep?
1. Ignore the mirror: Let's be honest, most of us aren't super models. But the truth is you're much better looking than you think are. In fact, you're actually quite beautiful. You're not as plump as you imagine, and your nose and teeth are just fine. You're divine, and those who love you agree.
2. Walk more: Don't commit to walking 40 miles a week or even an hour a day. Just commit to walking more than you did last year. Park at the back of the lot every time you're at IKEA, Wal-Mart or your local mall. Before you know it, you will have walked a marathon.
3. Eat better: Can you still eat fast food? Sure you can. Just make a conscious effort to skip it now and then. Next time you have a hankering for a hamburger, grab a salad instead. Next time you're jonesing for a soda, grab an ice-cold bottle of water from the convenience store.
4. Pray more: I had a friend tell me his key to success was kneeling in quiet prayer no fewer than six times a day. Six times? I'm delighted when I get two on my knees, one at my desk, one in my car and one on a golf course. If you feel distance between you and your Father in Heaven, step closer through prayer, but don't keep a pie chart. Just pray more than you did last year; the results will astound you.
5. Be more charitable: Are you slow to say thank you? To open doors? To forgive? Make charity a verb by seeking out small moments every single day to lift someone. Will you still get grumpy? Still have bad days? Still find yourself occasionally annoyed at people around you? Sure, but not as much as you did last year, guaranteed.
Perhaps more than anything in the year ahead, let's remember that New Year's resolutions aren't about being perfect; they are about being better.
They are not meant to transform us into someone else; they should simply mold us into a better version of ourselves.
That's the key to happiness 2011.
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