The ongoing process of New Year’s resolutions (and why it’s okay not to keep them)


It is easy to get cynical about New Year’s Resolutions.  How many years have I resolved to exercise more regularly, and how has that worked out for me?  (not well, alas).

But I can’t help it; when it comes to New Year’s, I’m an incorrigible optimist.

Before having kids, I made a tradition of taking my journal to a cafe somewhere around December 31 and doing some written stock-taking: what the closing year brought and taught, and what I hope for the year ahead.  Since having kids,I haven’t always had the luxury to take an hour and a half of written processing, but I’ve always managed to get a few thoughts in line.  Even if it only happens in my head or in a blog post, it helps.

Because even if I don’t end up keeping all of the resolutions, this act of reflection and stock-taking makes me burrow inward for a time.  It makes me honestly assess what in my life is bringing me joy, and what is getting in the way of living a life in line with God’s best vision for me.  It helps me realize what my priorities really are, and even if I waver on the specifics (I’ve eaten far fewer vegetables in 2014 than I thought I would last January), the general goals behind them do have an impact on my overall life (I’ve been more aware of my physical health this last year than I used to be).

Of course, the older I get, the more I realize how much I’m not in control of my own life.  Things happen in any given year, things you didn’t see coming, both good things and bad.  And resolutions that are too ironclad don’t leave room for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, which can gently nudge us down paths we never expected to travel when we penned our lists.

But I’ve found we can have both the mind that plans and the heart that remains open to change.  It’s a good combination, I think, because both involve reflection, stock-taking, honest and open assessment of the past and present.  I’m going to take my best shot at how to get the 2015 that I want, recognizing that the list I write on December 31st will be revisited, probably many times, in light of new information.  And that’s not failing at my resolutions; it’s discernment, and I’ve learned that it’s the reality of living a spiritual life.

So sometime today or tomorrow, I’ll take a few moments to take stock.  I’ll sit down and review what the year has brought, and what I’ve done and failed to do.  And I’ll look at the wonderful blank page of 2015 and scribble an outline of what I think I might be able to do to become the most mindful, healthy, compassionate, prayerful me that I can be.

And then I’ll close the notebook, keeping my heart open to the Holy Spirit and all the surprises she has in store.

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