It’s January – the season of broken
resolutions promises. The easiest promise to break is the one you make to yourself. I don’t bother making resolutions, in the traditional sense, but I do set a yearly focus.
“Resolutions are popular because everyone feels they could use a little improvement.” ~Marilu Henner
They say if you do something consistently for 30 days it becomes a habit. When it comes to New Years resolutions, I don’t set specific goals – lose 50lbs for instance, find a better job. Those are outcomes derailed at any moment by things outside of my control. I’d rather focus on something really personal that’s honed and refined by the daily struggles of life — a character trait or a habit I’d like to develop.
One year I declared my Angelina Jolie year. At the time I was thinking through my goal for the year, I kept seeing her name in relation to her charitable work. We were already World Vision sponsors, but I wanted to do more, felt called to do more. I felt I had a lot of room to grow in this area. Is my duty as a global citizen only to send money? I can’t remember to send letters, and though I keep photos of our two sponsored kids on the fridge I never think to pray for them (as horrible as that confession is). For myself, only sending money didn’t absolve me of trying to help — because it didn’t inconvenience me so I never thought about it.
“The habit of doing more than is necessary can only be earned through practice.” ~ Seth Godin
I am far from wealthy by North American standards. But when so many others are living on less than $2 a day, are forced or sold into slavery, become victims of crime and political corruption — when children are forced to carry guns or sleep in alleyways because home isn’t safe, I am rich. So, I focused on finding charities I could really stand behind, and find ways to support them. Sometimes that support was in the form of money, sometimes it was raising awareness, volunteering, etc.
And it cultivated in both my husband and I a heightened awareness of the suffering and need in this world. We give money to several non-profits working locally and internationally focusing on causes and issues we’re passionate about. We decided if we were only going to give out of our excess then we’d never have anything to give, so we make sacrifices. Two years later, more than 10% of our income is donated to charity. It’s only money. This is something we’re passionate about, and it was a result of this personal focus for a year.
What I discovered through this intentional focus was a raised awareness for social justice, and a passion to continue doing little things to help. That yearly focus outside of myself developed a habit and cultivated a passion that my whole family now shares.
Last year I focused on strengthening my relationship with my husband, which led me to understand I needed to work on me — work on those personality traits and habits holding me back from becoming the person I wanted to be. A year later I’m a lot healthier, and by extension so is my marriage. But, it’s become a habit so I’m continuing to meet with my mentors, continuing to focus on developing traits and cultivating habits to help me become the woman I want to be.
My good friend Stephanie Nickel does something a little different, and she’s inspired me this year. One year she declared the year of encouragement – and she stuck to it. She actively encouraged everyone around her with sincerity and authenticity. Her emails, blog comments, and Facebook messages repeatedly cheered me up and helped motivate me towards my own goals. I haven’t heard what her goal is this year.
“Attitudes are nothing more than habits of thoughts, and habits can be acquired. An action repeated becomes an attitude realized.”
― Paul Myer
Last fall I really struggled with depression (not in the clinical sense, but a general malaise, lack of motivation, constant exhaustion). Things had not gone as I’d envisioned them on several fronts, apathy sunk in, and I lost my ability to cope. Over December I actively focused on finding joy in the season. Any of you who follow me on Facebook would have seen my Joy Project posts.
What I learned was that by intentionally seeking the positive even for just a month, the depression completely lost it’s hold on me. I’m thinking Steph is definitely onto something. I interviewed a young woman who lost her older brother in a car accident, and her mother challenged her to seek out beauty. This speaks to me. Since I’m so drawn to the dark and troubled things of this world, I’m going to intentionally seek out beauty. To keep myself accountable, I’ll post about it on Facebook. I won’t post everyday — then it wouldn’t be about finding beauty, but about finding something to post. But as I actively seek it out, I’ll share what I find.
So – if you were going to pick a word as a theme for the upcoming year, what would it be? Do you make resolutions, or do you focus more on habits?
I blog when I have something to say, typically twice a week, but not on a set schedule. Make sure you don’t miss any posts by subscribing using the box below to have updates arrive once a week in your inbox. I would love to meet and chat, find me on Facebook here.