Don't do it! Here's a Catholic alternative to New Year's resolutions.
My in-box always seems to fill with the same questions this time of year, all concerning New Year’s resolutions — the promise of a new year, fresh starts, and personal betterment. Do I have advice on sticking to resolutions, what resolutions do I recommend, how many are too many resolutions?
Aleteia’s staff writers have a lot of wonderful advice on this very topic, but I am going to suggest something completely contrary to the idea of annual resolutions: Don’t make any. If you don’t want to fail at your resolutions, start by not creating them.
Now I am not saying you can’t fail if you never try, I am alluding more to making more meaningful and lasting change. The kind of change that is deeper than “being more active” or “quitting smoking.” Even deeper than taking on a plethora of spiritual challenges.
I proposed it last year and my opinion on the matter remains the same. The best resolution you can ever make is the one of a daily examen. What is a resolution, after all but a recollection of the year past with the promise to do better in the new year to come?
As Catholics we have the opportunity to start anew every time we receive the sacrament of Penance … New Year’s resolutions are just promises we make to ourselves to modify certain undesirable behaviors. The same could be said of confession; where we examine our sins, seek forgiveness, and promise to try to sin no more.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. – Act of Contrition
But resolutions aren’t the same as sins, you may say. Resolving to get more organized or lose weight isn’t a sin to confess.
Yes, but sloth and gluttony are. There is sin rooted at all our vices … Catholics were resolving to do better before it was cool.
If you want to do anything new or different this year, I propose regular confession, at least once a month, and making daily examinations of conscious in the evening. In this way you’ll make daily and monthly resolutions throughout the entire year and that regularity will help it be a little easier to start over if you mess up or fall off track. Just run to confession and start all over again; no need to wait for any balls to drop.
But even if you can’t get to confession that regularly, the daily or nightly examen is a must, and it’s not hard. It’s not even time-consuming. If you commute, you can do it as you ride. Here is an excellent 5 step guide to making an examen. And here are some thoughts on being mindful of what you know you need.
Happy New Year. Merry Christmas, too, for another few days. Don’t be too hard or too easy on yourself. That’s a pretty good resolution, right there.