By The Rev. N. Graham Standish, PhD, MSW, MDiv, MA
It’s late in the month to be talking about New Year’s resolutions. By now you’ve either made one or not. And if you made one, you’re either feeling successful, struggling, or have failed.
So here I am in mid- to late-January writing about New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because I want you to rethink them. For the most part we make resolutions that have to do with something physical such as losing weight, exercising more, sleeping better, or personal attributes such as being kinder, being more honest, being less critical, etc...
I’m encouraging you think a bit differently using a concept I’ve come across over the past year, which is adopting a guiding word as a resolution rather than adopting a resolution. The word can serve almost like a mantra that we repeat over and over to ourselves, and that over time shapes and changes our thinking, acting, and more in ways we want to change.
For example, instead of resolving to lose 20 pounds by going on a diet, choosing a word like “moderation,” may have a huge impact not only on losing weight, but on life. If we choose to moderate in all things, we may find that we’re not only moderating our food choices, but also moderating how we interact with people, the amount of television we watch, the degree to which we do too much stuff that doesn’t matter and not enough of that which does.
Think of what the impact of following words such as “kindness,” “generosity,” “appreciate,” “healthy,” “others,” and more might have on your life.
A one-word resolution can also have an impact on our lives spiritually. For instance, choosing a word such as “aware” might help us become more aware of God’s presence everywhere, and how every part of life has spiritual meaning. “Gratitude” can help us become more thankful and appreciative in life, making us more positive and enthusiastic. A word such as “compassion” can help us sparkle with a greater sense of care for others.
The key is taking time to assess our lives to get a sense of what could be enhanced, and if we have a spiritual bent, asking God in prayer what word we’re called to adopt. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve often spent time looking honestly at my life, thinking of all the things I’d like to make better, and then just ruminating on what one word captures it. Eventually a word seems to emerge.
For example, the word for me this year is “engage.” What does that mean? For me it means making sure that whatever I embark on that I’m engaged in it rather than just participating in or doing it. It means bringing passion, consistency, resiliency, perseverance, and more into my life. This is a highly personal word for me that has more meaning that I can really convey here. It’s a word that came to me while walking in a mall several weeks ago as I reflected on what word captures what I’m seeking.
So, I’m encouraging you, for your physical, mental, and spiritual health, to consider a one-word resolution, even if you’ve already made your resolution.
As always, if it leads you to seeking help from us, we’re always here with compassionate counselors, coaches, and spiritual directors.