Here are two ways to ensure you keep the promises you make this year.
So you’ve once again made a number of good resolutions … stop smoking, get angry less frequently, spend less time on your smart phone and other screens, spend more time with your family, get in shape, drive slower … There’s no shortage of worthy goals.
The first day of success, we feel proud of ourselves. Then days go by — sometimes weeks — and suddenly, we forget or don’t do it. It’s the beginning of the end. If we fail once, we tell ourselves “that’s it,” as if up to now we’ve done nothing. So we stop everything.
The years go by like this and the only resolution that seems worth making is not to make one! It’s a practical solution: we avoid feeling guilty and the unpleasant feeling of failure. But here, too, there’s a risk: when we start thinking like this, the slightest effort that we invest will be wasted. We risk becoming self-centered and lazy. These are not saintly virtues.
Choosing feasible resolutions
To progress, to evolve, to strive, is the business of a lifetime. Do you remember the brave and helpful knight you wanted to be when you were a little boy, or the generous and compassionate princess you dreamed of becoming when you were a six-year-old? Take the time to remember, look deep inside yourself for those beautiful childhood aspirations. They are still yours: those of the toddler who is indifferent to fashion, to what people say; those of the child who freely states what he loves, who confidently explains what she would like to be; those aspirations that you keep buried deep in your heart all your life and that, without always knowing it, you try to comply with when you are an adult. You can still fulfill them today. It will require patience and courage, but on the upside you will ultimately gain joy and peace.
To become soccer player of the year or an opera star, you have to take the time to learn. The path to wisdom is the same. First, tackle a project that is tailored to your needs. Serving soup to people on the street every night of the week when you have a busy schedule is not a good idea. On the other hand, choosing to talk to a homeless person after Mass every Sunday or when you leave the office is more feasible.
Give meaning to your efforts by offering them for a specific cause
Make one resolution at a time, and don’t make it too difficult. You’ll have a better chance of sticking to it. Also, why not make an effort for a limited amount of time? So, instead of deciding to never drink a single drop of alcohol in the evening for the whole year, you could decide to drink only two glasses. Keep up this pace for two months and, at the end of that time, consider switching to just one glass.
The ultimate source of strength cannot be sheer willpower alone. You are a being of divine essence, so give meaning to these efforts by offering them for a specific cause (the conversion of a friend, the marriage of a colleague). Let the desire to progress be more than just an exercise to test your will and showing off if you succeed.
And lastly, be aware that when you are trying to evolve, it is normal to falter. The key is to get right back up and into the saddle again. This is the life of the Christian, motivated by hope and strengthened by the grace of the sacraments.