A singular idea occurred to me last week, coming hard on the heels of the Jewish holiday of repentance and new resolutions: what would happen if I made a list of all I’d like to change in my life during the coming year?
Many of us create resolutions for the start of a fresh year–whether it begins on January 1st or Yom Kippur–but often the goals for which we strive prove difficult to live up to. Perhaps if we all wrote out a simple accounting of the ways in which we are strong, as well as the ways in which we are weak, our path might be more clear, and easier to stick with.
In the end, to find the strength necessary for change, you need to like and love yourself enough to withstand the battle. The challenge lies not only in making a decision about what is worth improving–but also what is worth expanding. In other words, we have to evaluate those attributes of which we are most proud, and then use them as tools to address those characteristics and situations with which we are the most unhappy.
I began by recording the personal strengths I value most in myself; then I wrote down the challenges I must face if I want to make a difference in my life–and in the lives of those about whom I care so deeply. I kept it reasonably short, so that I wouldn’t get discouraged before I’d even begun. To my surprise, making the list was not as difficult as I’d imagined, once I had jumped the hurdle of being candid with myself. After that initial leap, the rest was not so hard.
The strengths I value about myself most:
- I’m a good listener when anyone at all wants to talk, to bitch and moan, or to just plain old confide.
- I can empathize with nearly everyone–even over the most private issues–and be extremely supportive.
- I’m a good “communicator,” because I am articulate–most especially about emotions.
- I’m strong on perseverance: I know how to stay the course against even the greatest of odds.
- I’m a fighter: not only for myself, but for others as well.
- My number one forté: I am willing to express love and affection openly.
The challenges that lie ahead of me–not just for the New Year, but for life:
- To become more frugal and better at watching our nickels and dimes, and to stop being a “clothes-a-holic:” this goal is of immediate importance if we’re not going to declare Chapter 11.
- To become more patient. No more speeding down the highway because I am worried about being late: the goal is to stay safe. No more silent fury at the fumble-fingered checker as I wait in the long line at the supermarket: the goal is to be kind when it’s finally my turn. No more frustration as I wait for my over-taxed agent to read my novel: the goal is inner peace over whatever I cannot control.
- To become a more sympathetic wife: the goal is to give to Brad that which seems so easy to give to others.
- To become a more involved mother with my two grown kids: the goal is more love and more communication. Forever.
- To become increasingly charitable by committing to another community service project by the start of the New Year: the goal is to take me out of my own head–and my own problems.
- And finally–but most importantly, as it is the hardest of all to conquer–to become better at handling my own anxieties and not push them onto the shoulders of my family: the goal is to give peace and security to those who love and care about me.
So, there you have it–set out in black and white–all the changes I’d most like to see in my life during the coming year. A friend commented that perhaps sharing my list here would be too revealing, too highly personal, for my readers. I pointed out that I have always been highly personal in these newsletters. For me, keeping my writing close to the bone and truthful is the name of the game.
I challenge you to create a similar set of bullet points for yourself. You can do it now, or on January 1st, or anytime–as long as it isn’t never-ever time. You can keep your list private, or you can share as many elements as you want with someone you trust. (Or even with me, if you’d like.) Put your feet to the fire, and let’s go for it. Together.