Wendy Grace suggests some alternative New Year’s resolutions
Ringing in the New Year can be a good time to reflect on the year that has passed and to look positively towards the future. For Catholics, making resolutions is certainly regarded as very important. After all, every time we go to Confession we are resolving, with God’s help, to pick ourselves up and start again – we resolve not to sin again. The decisions you make on January 1 can really be a prayer that comes from the heart, as your real desire is to change and improve.
The majority of people who make resolutions keep their commitment for the first week, after that less than half maintain them after the first few months. Many of us have found ourselves making the same resolutions the following year, and the year after that as well! Sometimes New Year’s resolutions can be something trivial rather than being something concrete we are truly committing to. All too often their only purpose seems to be for a point of conversation during the New Year’s Eve festivities and in the weeks after.
One of the big mistakes that we make with New Year’s resolutions is that we cut away the branches without ever really getting to the root of the problem. For example, someone who vows to lose weight in January doesn’t stop to think what the underlying cause is – is it gluttony? Is it a lack of self-control? Is it emotional eating? Without understanding the root cause it will be difficult to fulfil the resolution.
Before making your resolutions it is important to think about the purpose of the resolutions. Will they bring you closer to, or further away from God? Do your resolutions have an impact on those around you? Does it impact your time in a particular way? Do you need to look for support from those around you? Without understanding the ‘why’ to your resolutions they will be hard to stick to.
It is important to keep your resolutions realistic. Setting too many goals or goals that are unattainable will inevitably mean that you might not achieve any of them. Think through your resolutions fully. Ask yourself why you are making the resolution in the first place? When will you set aside the time to make it happen and how do you plan to achieve them. Often resolutions are not fully thought through and this can be the reason they fail. You need to prioritise things that are both realistic and practical to achieve.
Try taking up
Far too much focus can be put on giving up something, perhaps your focus could shift instead to taking up something. This could be a decision to dedicate time to a new charitable cause, or put aside another hour in the week for prayer. But remember, just as if we set the bar too high with other New Year’s resolutions, we will fail in our spiritual resolutions as well if we set a goal that is unrealistic. Ask yourself, what is the motivation behind your resolution?
For example, why do you want to pray for an extra hour a week? Is it to have a better friendship with God? Or is it to appear more pious to your friends? If God is the centre of your resolution then you have a better chance of success.
You must really solidify the purpose of your resolution and have a real plan to carry it out. For instance, if you decide you are going to volunteer for two hours once a month at a local charity shop; the purpose is helping others, the plan is at the beginning of each month picking the date and time and locking it into your calendar.
Make a commitment
Once you have decided on your resolutions make sure you write them down. A good idea is to write a letter to yourself and open it one month after you made your resolutions to see how you are doing. Remember to detail what they are, why you are doing them and your plan to achieve them. It might also be helpful to share your resolutions with someone else so they can help you along the way and you can do the same for them. Wouldn’t it be nice this time next year to frame the resolutions you had made – having achieved them!
Remember not to get dismayed when things do not work out as you had planned. Intrinsic to our Catholic faith is the importance of getting back up again when you fall down. Don’t give up if you fail on your resolution. Instead pick yourself up and start again. The point is, don’t quit. If it is a worthy goal it is worth sticking to it, even if it means starting again.
Here are some suggestions:
Find a saint
Do you have a patron saint? If not, maybe it is time to find one. Saints really are the heroes of our Faith and using them to intercede for us can be really powerful. Perhaps you might want to learn more about the saint you took as your Confirmation name, or is there a saint whom you can really identify with? For example, if you are a teacher you might really enjoy learning about St John Bosco. If you love animals then St Francis might be your man! Simply reading about the saints is truly inspiring; to learn about ordinary people whom God worked through and made extraordinary.
Find extra time for prayer
Can you work some extra time for prayer into your week? Perhaps you haven’t really prayed for some time and don’t know where to
begin. Start where you are at
If you have never really prayed the rosary try to pray just one decade a day, or maybe you can read the Gospel for 10 minutes a day twice a week and think about what that reading means to you. Maybe you work in the city and you can grab lunchtime Mass once a week – not only is this a great quiet time away from work but it really provides spiritual nourishment to get you through the week.
Spend more time with family and friends
Create space in your week to spend more time with family and friends. It does take effort to stay in touch with friends and you do have to make time.
Perhaps decide you won’t watch TV two days a week – you will be amazed at the time that this frees
up enabling you to spend time with the people that really matter in
Think about yourself
When it comes to resolutions they don’t all have to be selfless! Sometimes we tend to forget about ourselves. What about a resolution that vows to reduce stress?
Decide you are going to have some more time for yourself. This can be as simple as having a quiet walk twice a week, smart phone and gadget free.
Give of your time
Give of your time to either a charity that you want to become more involved in or perhaps a person in your life could do with a helping hand from time to time.
Remember if you end up neglecting your resolutions and lamenting in July what could have been, you don’t need to wait until January 1 to get going again!