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Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year's Resolution

The end of one year and the beginning of another is traditionally a time of reflection and evaluation for most of us; this is understandable, especially once a person is old, and mature, enough to recognize the finite nature of life and the desire to accomplish certain things during that life or leave behind something to those who follow. For example, I am still deeply engaged in a search for the perfect root beer float. For those of you also engaged in this critical search; first you must put a glass mug of suitable size and heft in the freezer and secure a good quality ice cream, which is not too dense. You will also need a spoon of about tablespoon size, as you need a spoon big enough to hold both the ice cream and a bit of root beer. We had better put this on hold and get to our resolutions; if you want my recipe, email me at the address below.

I suggest making no more than three resolutions. If you try to do more than a couple at a time, you are reducing your chances of being successful at any of them. Pick one or two you believe are most pressing; working on one health and one life improvement resolution allows you to feel as though you are improving across the broader scope of your life, while still focusing deeply. In my case, I would lose weight and get in better shape, but I spill my root beer float when I get on the treadmill.

New Year’s resolutions can be framed in two ways, capitalizing on what you do well or trying to improve what you are not doing well. In the US, we tend to focus on fixing the things we aren’t doing well or want to stop, but a shortcoming of this way of looking at challenges is we become fixated on the negative. On the other hand, if you focus on capitalizing on what you do well or want to do more, then you are grounded in the positive and focusing on the good in your life.

Obviously, if you are doing something destructive to yourself or others, such as illegal drug use or abusive behavior, then getting help stopping that behavior immediately is important. However, if you are eating too much for example, but enjoy bike riding, or snowshoeing, then joining a bike riding club or taking advanced snowshoeing lessons will increase how much you engage in those activities, provide more exercise, and thereby help you lose weight. This would be an example of focusing on the positive and is called appreciative inquiry.

After you decide on your resolutions and frame them in the manner most comfortable to you, write them down! Then break up the resolution into manageable, preferably daily, bites. This helps make your resolution a habit and allows you to track success.

Tell others of your resolutions so they can support you, and surround yourself with those who will provide loving support. Make sure you kindly make suggestions to your family and friends so they know how to support you better. Be sure you are a good friend and provide them the kind of support they want in achieving their resolutions as well. If they cannot be supportive, you may have to make changes in the friends you spend time with.

Last, realize that failure is only failure when you quite trying. I do not believe this to be just a trite saying. Most smokers for example have to try four times or more before quitting smoking. Many people have to start exercising several times before it becomes a habit.

We have to leave this for now, as I have run out of room and I have to go get some root beer. Have a wonderful new year full of possibility and promise!

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

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