El Mensajero (English)

Posted: January 15, 2019

New year, new resolutions

By Maria-Pia Negro Chin/CNS

Have you thought about your New Year’s resolutions yet? Maybe you are making progress in your decision-making or you are still deciding what to focus on in 2019.
Some of your resolutions could be to do better at school, volunteer, be healthier/more active, recycle more, learn something new, be a role model or cut back on your social media use. Or perhaps you are determined to take a stand when needed, like when someone is bullying another person or when the group is making inappropriate jokes that demean others.
Perhaps you slipped in your resolutions for last year, and became discouraged or cast them aside altogether.
“People who rely on willpower mostly fail,” Anne Swinbourne, a behavioral psychologist at James Cook University, Australia, told the BBC last year. “To keep a resolution, you have to be boringly meticulous — you have to plan.”
Jotting down what you want to accomplish is just the beginning. Keeping your resolutions requires planning, acting and, often, praying. Incorporating healthy behavior into your everyday life, avoiding triggers that cause us to regress and asking for support when needed take work, but it is worth it.
One approach is to ask “What kind of person God wants me to be by the end of this year?” as Father Mike Schmitz noted in a YouTube video. Are your resolutions going to help you behave in a way that God’s light can shine in our world through you?
Once you prayerfully decide what to work on this year, it’s time to take action. Put in the work, even if you don’t see the rewards right away or if you make mistakes. Learn from them, reassess and persevere in your efforts.
Besides making your new 2019 goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, making sure your goals are rooted in being the person God knows you can be makes it harder to waver. When keeping a resolution becomes a challenge, we can remember why we made this commitment in the first place.
Writer Elizabeth Manneh hit the nail on the head when she admitted that — like many of us — she was not successful in her resolutions because relying only in our human efforts to “transform (our) lives by establishing new habits” is not enough.
Manneh focused on thinking about her motivations to be a better person. She reflected on 12 questions, looking at the past year and the year ahead.
I like Manneh’s method. The desire to change is not rooted in a sense of inadequacy, but the motivation to be better. Some questions included, “In which areas of your spiritual life have you grown most?” and “Where have you seen examples of answered prayer?” and “What can you do to become more aware of God’s presence?”
Her approach allows you to have an honest look at your spiritual life and how that affects your everyday life, which leads you to set realistic and worthwhile resolutions.
Being faithful is “to keep your promises — choosing the Lord — consistently” and being repentant if you fall, said Father Schmitz. That is why “consistency will beat intensity every time.”
A few years ago, Monica Gabriel Marshall, editor of Verily magazine, wrote that in light of research saying that 60 percent of Americans drop their resolutions after six months, she decided to strengthen her fortitude, which is “the necessary mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger or temptation courageously.”
One suggestion is to think short-term at first — like practicing self-denial for a month and continue from there. Another one is to find an accountability partner like a family member or a friend who supports you. Having someone “to fight the good fight with you” will lead you to encourage each other in this journey, she said.
You can move forward with your resolutions even after the initial enthusiasm has worn off or you feel discouraged. Choose to make God a priority in 2019.
Negro Chin is bilingual associate editor at Maryknoll Magazine.