Dear Readers: By this time of year, many of us have tried – and already discarded – our New Year’s resolutions.
In the spirit of making, keeping, or perhaps restarting these resolutions, I’m devoting this column to reader responses to a recent question from “Unresolved” about the challenge of maintaining resolutions.
Dear Amy: The only resolution I truly kept was to discard one item every week, after downsizing from a home to a condo.
So easy! So liberating! It cured me of needing to hold on to “stuff.”
– Gloria, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Dear Amy: Why are we so stuck on January 1 as the day all resolutions must begin?
It’s hard to get moving in the dead of winter. Instead, look at the spring equinox as your starting point for new resolutions, and spend the winter months reflecting on old habits, slowly shedding the ones that don’t work for you anymore, and thinking of ways to improve your life once the snow melts.
Spring has always felt like the start of a new year to me, anyway.
Dear Amy: Never make a New Year’s resolution. Wait until April 1, because then if you fail, you are only making a fool of yourself.
On April 1, 1980, I resolved to stop smoking cigarettes. I haven’t smoked one since.
The only resolution I ever made worked.
– No Cigs in Virginia
Dear Amy: It is OK to make “fun” resolutions, too!
One year I resolved to try a new kind of cheese every month.
I didn’t make it through 12 new cheeses, but thinking about the six or seven new ones I did try still makes me smile!
– A Friend
Dear Amy: I keep a whiteboard with the fitness goals I’d like to achieve that week. It’s satisfying to check them off, and seeing blank spaces motivates me.
Dear Amy: I think we are absolutely our own worst critics.
I know that negative reinforcement produces the least long-term behavior change, while doing plenty of damage to our self-esteem, which is pretty demotivating.
Positive reinforcement, kindness to ourselves, and being our own cheerleader is really key.
That, along with living with enthusiasm (fake it until it sticks), have helped to bring me to some of my most productive periods of self-improvement.
– Sharing Helps
Dear Amy: Here’s what has worked for me: Do it with a friend.
Last year I resolved to call a long-distance friend at least once a month.
We decided to take turns calling every month.
We kept our resolution and are continuing it this year.
It has been wonderful for our long friendship. I am now adding another long-distance friend to my monthly calls.
Dear Amy: After I exclaimed my distress at not being able to keep my own resolutions my friend asked me, “Who is the boss of you?” Um, me? Yup!
I’ve learned that I am the boss of my personal goals and if I don’t honor myself by putting effort into the things that I want to accomplish, then who will?
– The Boss
Dear Amy: At age 62, I was finally able to quit smoking after several decades of trying.
What was different? I finally truly thought of myself as a non-smoker.
Previously I felt like I was a smoker trying to stay away from cigarettes.
“Unresolved” needs to really believe that they ARE what it is they are trying to accomplish.
It made all the difference for me.
Dear Amy: One thing that’s helped me with resolutions for walking/running: No matter how wretched I think I feel each morning, I put on my shoes and walk for five minutes. After five minutes out, if I’m still not feeling it, I turn around and go home and back to bed. (But usually, just a couple minutes is all it takes to affirm that I’m on the right path.)
– Kim in Cary, NC
Dear Amy: My advice is to forget resolutions, forget goals. Use mottoes instead!
The easier to remember, the more likely to come to mind.
Mine for the last few years have been quite successful: Less stress! Less clutter! More creating!
Dear Amy: My stepfather, John, never asked what our resolutions were – he asked what we wanted to take with us into the new year.
He passed away last month but left a legacy of hope, positivity, and love.
This year I want to take his hope and positivity into the new year with me.
– Rebecca G
Dear Rebecca: This is a wonderful and worthy resolution.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.