New Year’s Resolutions. Most of us have come to hate them for a variety of reasons. What is the official definition of a New Year’s Resolution? It is typically a promise I make to myself. It is a promise to change my behavior.
Resolutions address some of the toughest obstacles we humans face: stop smoking, control eating, improving our parenting practices, health/fitness improvements, and so on.
These are not typically changes that we WANT to make, but rather believe that for (one reason or another), we SHOULD make. Nothing like a change that’s rooted in guilt, eh?
In all my years, I have never met anyone who wanted to lose weight. It’s tough. You must stop short on an enjoyable behavior: eating. It is the unpleasant concept of denial. There are plenty of folks who want to be thin; but no one who actually wants to lose weight.
WHY DO NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS USUALLY FAIL?
For a human being, there is nothing more difficult than successfully making a behavior change – like those above.
Second, there is no more powerful a motivator than the power of want. Example: When a young man spends $100 at Valentine’s Day for a dozen roses in a flower shop, do you think that he really wants flowers?
Resolutions fail because they are rooted in guilt, duty, obligation and the like. Humans will generally do anything so long as a gun is pointed at their heads. Take the gun away, and humans will revert to what they want (or like) to do.
In my years with Weight Watchers, I lost count of the times someone would show up as a new member with 50, 75, or 100 lbs to lose in preparation for: a class reunion, a child’s wedding – you can fill in the blank.
They succeed at making their goal weight. A year after the event, they are back weighing even more than they did originally.
Why does this happen? Once the threat of the event passed, the person goes back to their old habits and the weight quickly returns.
When we fail at keeping a New Years Resolution, the failure feeds on itself. “If I can’t succeed here, then I’m a failure everywhere,” goes the thinking. Attitudes get poisoned and eventually, we give up on all forms of self-improvement.
WHAT IS THE SECRET OF SUCCESS?
Fundamentally, success breeds on itself, too. Maintaining a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE (PMA) requires a consistent effort. The effort required can be huge, at times. It takes work – just like a good marriage. You must work at it every day.
Fill the cognitive part of your brain with PMA. Think of it this way: if your mind is consumed with thoughts of winning, smiling, having fun, looking for the silver lining in every situation, there is little (or no) room left for negativity.
Maintaining a Positive Mental Attitude is good for your mind and great for your body, e.g. blood pressure, etc.
Back in 2001-2003, I was detailed to support U.S. Customs at the international border with Canada in Detroit. I was promoted to a position of authority after a few months.
When someone asked my new job responsibilities, I frequently replied by saying that, “I have been put in charge of having fun.” Invariably, it brought a smile to the faces in the conversation and lightened up attitudes.
Back then, the United States was newly at war. We had been attacked. Everyone was working 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. It was a tough time. It was even tougher to maintain my PMA.
Keeping a Positive Mental Attitude requires that you convert tasks rooted in duty and change them into something that you want to do. Examples:
I don’t want to quit smoking. Rather, I want to be smoke-free.
I don’t want to be looking for a cigarette when I awake each morning or after every meal. I don’t want to recoil at the thought of a long airplane flight.
I don’t want to be remanded to the outdoors in inclement weather to satisfy a nicotine need.
I see others going through these things and congratulate myself on how happy I am to be smoke-free.
I really would like the LARGE order of French Fries with my burger. But rather than depriving myself of the fries, I think of how much I like trying on a new pair of Levis at the store with a 32 inch waist, confidently knowing they will fit. I enjoy that.
“Mental games,” you say? You are right. But, those games work. People who do this for themselves are more likely to be successful over the long haul.
SOUNDS LIKE A BUNCH OF B.S. TO ME …
When was the last time you were on a traffic stop and the moron talked himself INTO jail? Had it not been for his stupid, poor, boorish behavior he would have gone home.
But his mouth and more important, his attitude, got him jammed-up.
In 2004, my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer in her female plumbing parts. At the outset, her doctor told us about the importance of maintaining a Positive Mental Attitude.
My bride led the way and kept the entire family positive. It’s been nearly fourteen years. She is cancer free. She kept her head high and found the silver lining in every cloud that came along.
In my last agency, there was a guy who worked midnights. He is the most negative, miserable, cranky, mean, ugly, pessimistic person I have ever known in my life.
He couldn’t see the positive in anything.
Prior to my meeting him, he had been fired from two prior agencies. He was in his late forties and the only other person (at work) who would associate with him was another officer who was almost as miserable as he was.
That type of cop can poison an entire crew. They taint the pool of cops and spread their bad attitude. Worse, it spills over onto the street.
One must constantly be on guard. When I hear someone else whining or complaining, I can unwittingly be drawn in – like a moth to a flame.
Likewise, when life’s circumstances seem to have dealt me bad cards, it’s tempting to start thinking about anger, revenge and other tactics for retribution.
What I may not realize is that hurtful, hateful, angry thought patterns hurt me. Not only do they affect me, but they also affect my wife.
Did you ever warm some soup on the stove and allow it to burn on the bottom of the pot? I have. I figured I could just ladle a bowl or two from the top and it would be fine.
The taste of burned tomato soup permeated the entire batch. That’s exactly what happens to our personalities when we allow negativity, defeatism and hate to creep into our lives.
GOOD THEORY, BUT HOW DOES IT APPLY IN REAL LIFE?
A war story follows …
There is a man whom I know that is serving in his second term as sheriff. Based on the election results, it appears that the public loves him. I helped him on his last election bid. He seems to be very honest, bright, creative and his people speak very highly of him.
Some time ago, disturbing evidence surfaced that was compelling. It implicated the sheriff personally along with his top people of corruption and embezzlement of millions of dollars in tax funds. An ambitious cover-up scheme was in place, to provide cover.
I became aware of what was going on. I signed up to run against him in the upcoming election. As a result, the sheriff made numerous libelous statements about me.
My initial reaction was to become angry. I set forth a plan by which I could strike back in revenge. Over some weeks, my anger nearly paralyzed me emotionally. I then realized that I was only hurting myself. I decided to change course.
I was terribly troubled. I counseled with my best friend, Jeff, about the situation. In an effort to bolster my spirits, he responded a letter containing his thoughts.
Jeff wrote to me, “One thing you don’t need to worry about is the respect you have earned. Respect will endure any attack – you are much bigger than these small minded people. The only thing that matters to the guy upstairs is what you do. Don’t ever change who you are or what you do.”
I was betrayed by the sheriff, whom I thought was trustworthy. I felt angry because a person sworn to uphold the law was flagrantly violating it. I felt embarrassed because I was duped into helping to further the agenda of a criminal.
But that is past history. I took what I had to the authorities. I did not benefit from carrying this burden and therefore removed it from my life. It was clouding my ability to see clearly. It was creating a mental burden for me to carry that I did not like and did not want.
I chose to be in charge of having fun.
SO, WHAT NOW?
Consider some revisions to your New Years Resolutions:
- Have fun
- Find something good in every situation (or at least try)
- Have fun
- Eat fun foods (in reasonable quantities)
- Do what you enjoy
- Have fun
Be certain that your resolutions include only items that you WANT to accomplish. If you have spent the recent years with your shoulder to the grindstone, i.e. working hard on other changes, take a year off. Put yourself in charge of having fun.
Remember to draw upon your faith. God is an important part of my life. He helps me maintain my compass. Work hard at keeping (or creating) a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. Be guilty of committing Random Acts of Kindness for others whom you come across.
Another short war story …
About a year ago, I received an email on a weekday morning. It was from the wife of an LEO in Canada. The couple has four young children. He had taken some very hard knocks at work and she feared he might be on the brink of committing suicide that very day.
She asked me to help him and prevent the suicide.
The email stopped me cold. I was in Florida. He was in another country: Canada. I thought to myself, “What can I possibly do to save a brother cop who is so far away?”
I started with a quick prayer asking the Big Guy to intervene. The phone wires sizzled. Emails flew. Our brother was saved from a terrible fate that day.
Since then, there have been dozens of phone calls, emails and other communications. I have been able to find resources near their home who could provide local support.
While all is not totally fixed, they are about 90% of the way to a complete recovery. Thank God.
In their recent Christmas card, this message, “Thank you for all the wonderful support you brought to our family.” It was signed be each of the four kids and the couple at the center of this storm, as well.
I do not deserve the credit. The words, deeds and outcomes came from the Big Guy, above. I was only the messenger. But, this shows what can happen when we allow it.
Please resolve now to be happy, enthusiastic, smile as much as you can and have fun. There are other years and times to be miserable. Not this day. Not this year.
This is the day to live life joyfully – laughing and chuckling every step of the way. This is the day to love your brothers and sisters in arms. This is the day to resolve that life will be more fun and more enjoyable that it ever been before.
Happy New Year to all.
When it’s all said and done, it comes down to saving just ONE life.
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