The new year is a time for resolutions, but if you’re having trouble keeping yours, don’t worry. You’re in good company: 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February. Truth be told, I didn’t even make one this year.
I’ve never really liked the idea of new year’s resolutions, anyway. Maybe it’s because I don’t like change, or maybe it’s because each new year reminds me that time is passing all too fast. I think on a deeper level, though, what bothers me about new year’s resolutions is that they carry with them the implicit notion that we need to change something about our lives to be happy.
If I could just lose those extra pounds, then I would fit into my old jeans. If I save enough money, I can finally take a proper vacation. If I get that promotion, then I’ll earn the respect of my peers. And the list goes on. We’ve all heard these resolutions before — and, truth be told, we’ve all probably made them before.
The problem with this type of mindset is that we convince ourselves that we can only be fulfilled if one of these conditions is met. We tell ourselves the lie that happiness is only possible if we accomplish whatever particular goal we have set. We obsessively focus on the outcome and underestimate the value of the journey, the importance of the process. Joy eludes us; or, more accurately, we rob ourselves of joy.
This is no way to live. Joy, happiness, fulfillment — it’s all meant for us, and it’s closer to us than we often think. This year, instead of making a new year’s resolution, I’m focusing on three ways I can fill my heart with this lasting happiness each and every day.
The first and most fundamental part of this process is being present. This is my life to live, and my presence is not optional. It is required in every moment, with each person, in every way. I’ll admit that in a world filled with constant noise and endless distractions, this is no easy task. I often fall short. But that doesn’t give me an excuse to stop trying.
So maybe next time I’ll look the cashier at the grocery store in the eye when I ask her how she is doing, instead of hurriedly scanning my shopping list. When my kids want me to build a fort with them, I’ll put my phone down and save email replies for later. I understand that being fully present in every moment requires a lifetime of practice, and I thank God for each day He gives me to try again.
When I start to open my eyes to the world around me, it’s impossible not to be grateful. There’s simply no way around it. A natural consequence of being more present is being more aware, and this awareness allows me to recognize the many ways in which I am genuinely blessed.
I’ve got a roof over my head, a warm jacket on my back, and a cozy bed in which to sleep. These may sound simple, but these are all things I can easily take for granted if I don’t actually consider them the true luxuries they really are.
I’ve got people to love. My husband, our children, my parents, my brother — these people all love me, and boy do I love them something fierce.
And sometimes, on the most glorious of days, I even have a few spare minutes to lose myself in a good book. Some blessings are big and some are small, but they are all gifts just the same.
When I take the time to actually count my blessings, I find that I just want to share them with others. After all, they’re not really ours to keep. God gives us blessings so that we can bless others. He gives us gifts so we can share them with those around us. At our core, we are simply stewards of His love.
This is the part that’s so exciting. This is where the magic happens. The way that you love and serve others is entirely unique. Nobody does it the same way you do.
I like to connect with others in small groups and through my writing. Perhaps you’re just the opposite. Maybe you find yourself at home in the middle of a crowded party, filled with new people you’re just waiting to meet. Wherever our niche may be, the important thing is that we serve those we meet along the way.
I sometimes get overwhelmed because I think that I need to be doing something great, something grand, to give back. This is not the case. While volunteering with Doctors Without Borders or fostering a child in need are certainly profound ways to help others, we’re not all called in this way. Sometimes, a little smile can go a long way. It really is as simple as that.
So this year, I’m not going to try to become more social or more adventurous. I’m not going to travel to any exotic places. I’m not going to try to become anyone other than me. I am shifting my focus from becoming to simply being. I am going to be more present in the moment, be more thankful for my blessings, and be more helpful to those around me.
Finally, a resolution worth keeping.