It’s that time of year again — that time when we promise ourselves to lose that last 10 pounds, give up smoking or change whatever behavior is most rankling us at that moment. Making New Year’s resolutions is a worldwide habit that is notorious for its dismal failure. So, why do we do it?
Our intentions are good, our attention to the problem is admirable, but this only seems to last a few weeks at the most. Our focus wanders onto life in general and the intent is lost. Then we spend the rest of the month beating ourselves up because we didn’t get to achieve what we promised ourselves.
I think the problem is that we focus on physical changes (weight loss, breaking an addiction, eating healthier) rather than on mental, emotional or spiritual changes. Let’s try an experiment. This new year, why not focus on these three things? Every day try to learn something new; every day try something new; and every day help at least one other person in your community.
Some people keep a blessing jar, a small glass jar that they fill with small cards during the year that record when something good happens to them. At Thanksgiving, the jar is emptied and the blessings are read.
Why not keep a resolution jar that you fill with small cards or mementos each time you learn or do something new or when you help another person in your community? You could keep a resolution journal, too.
A few years ago I decided to try these three things, just because, and have been amazed at the new experiences that have come my way. For example, riding the Boulder City zip line, learning about human longevity, and helping a student purchase a computer. You never know what opportunities are available to you.
In the 1980s, researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote about a state of mind, called the flow experience, which comes about when we are enjoying certain activities. Flow can be experienced during creative activities such as art, religious rituals, play, work and sports experiences that require concentration. Flow is similar to the sense of absorption that we feel when we are totally immersed in an enjoyable activity and is usually followed by a sense of pride in our work, and a sense of accomplishment and happiness at its completion.
Flow cannot be forced; it just seems to appear when we are totally immersed in an activity for its own sake. Sports participants talk about being in the zone and feel that they achieve their best work when they are in that state.
Some of the most proficient writers, inventors and pioneers have recognized the flow experience and used it to produce their best work.
As the coming year becomes more complex it is good to feel that we are doing something good for ourselves and others. Keep learning, keep doing and keep helping others in the community — and Happy New Year.
Angela Smith is a Ph.D. life coach, author and educator who has been resident in Nevada since 1992. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.