Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time For The New Year's Resolutions

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.  Comes into us at midnight very clean.  It's perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands.  It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

~John Wayne

That's got to be one of my favorite quotes--I've used it often.  The idea appeals to me because I think it's a perfect way to look at life.  Always looking forward to the new day, wiser from the lessons life has taught us the day before, and the mistakes we've made along the way.  It's the way I've chosen to live my own life. 

Now many people think that New Year's Resolutions are stupid, but I'm not one of them.  Every year I sit down and take an inventory of the previous year.  There's always a long list of mistakes I've made.  I take a little time to examine them--you know, those moments that make you wince a little when you think about them later.  The thing I enjoy most in life is trying new things, and mistakes and failures are a natural product of charting new waters.  I'm not afraid to make mistakes--it tells me I'm still alive, still moving forward, and still learning the lessons life has yet to teach me.  But this time of year, I really think about where I've gone wrong, and if there's a lesson to be learned from any of my blunders. By examining these moments on a regular basis, I seldom make the same mistake twice, and having learned something from them, I've given myself a free pass to continue charging forward across the minefield of blunders I haven't stepped into yet, but will given enough time.

I also look at the areas I need to improve on.  I think a lot of people have trouble with this one--it's sometimes hard to admit to yourself that even you have areas you can improve on.  Mine usually become pretty obvious to me after a careful examination of those blunders I've made.  We like to believe our errors are the fault of others.  It seems to be the human default when faced with a blunder to assign blame rather than accept the responsibility.  But if you look at those moments that make you wince a little, you'll realize there was some failing on your part, too--something you didn't want to see, something you didn't pay enough attention to, something you didn't think through very well, or something you didn't prepare enough for.  If you look at those objectively, you'll realize it's a teachable moment, and there is something to be learned.
And the last part of this little annual exercise is finding one or two attainable goals to work on.  I think this is why a lot of people don't like resolutions.  They make a long list, and then when they don't make progress on all of them, they become disheartened and give up on all those grand goals they set for themselves. 

That's what I used to do, too.  That's because I was thinking shotgun.  I'm going to fire a hundred pellets at a dozen small targets placed closely together and hope one or two BB's hit the mark.  These days, I tend to think rifle rather than shotgun.  Just pick one target, and focus all your attention on it.  We were all taught that wisdom about putting our eggs all in one basket, but maybe that's wrong.  If you really want to accomplish a goal, throw all your energy behind it.  Make a plan on how you're going to get there, and then do it.  And of course the biggest part of hitting that target is believing you can. 

That's what holds a lot of us back--we don't truly believe we can change or reach those goals we've set for ourselves.  It's much easier not to.  I don't think it has ever been said better than by a famous Freemason.  Reverend Jesse Jackson said, "If you believe it, you can achieve it."  And at least in my own experience, I know he's right. 

Like in the John Wayne quote, the New Year is upon us, and it's very clean.  It's full of promise and opportunity, but it's up to us what becomes of it.  What would you make of it?

Happy New Year!


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