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Loosen up on the resolutions

Skip the absolutes. Set realistic goals, and take baby steps

By Rosie Molinary

It’s that time of year again.

It’s not just the season of glad tidings, merry gentlemen and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” musings, but the season of “I will only drink water,” “I will never eat fried food again,” “I will call my mother every day,” “I will lose every pound I’ve gained since puberty,” and various other gung-ho iterations of New Year’s resolutions.

For a long time, I thought something was wrong with me. I couldn’t make a New Year’s resolution stick.

There was that one year I vowed to give up caffeine. Then there was the year where I broke up with sugar. (Full disclosure: I’m writing this column fueled by a gigantic cup of hot chocolate.)

Finally, some years ago, I realized the problem with my resolution setting.

I was striving for what sounded good, as opposed to what was going to make me feel good or get me closer to what I truly wanted. It sounded disciplined to say I was caffeine-free, but I didn’t particularly want to be caffeine free. Let’s face it, as a mom I already feel energetically outnumbered. I need the help where I can get it.

My resolutions were often about things I thought I should do rather than what I really wanted.

For too long, I thought the point of resolutions was the action. Now, I see that the point is the feeling the action evokes, the meaning it gives your life. So I quit embracing arbitrary but virtuous rules that had little to do with my dream life and more to do with showing my discipline, and started taking steps that actually gave me more of what I wanted to feel in my life.

If you are looking to go into the new year with some focus and intention, but your past relationship with resolutions has looked like mine (An empathetic tip of the cocoa mug to you, friend!), then try these three strategies to make the most of the new year:

1. Write your “yes” list. What do you want your life to feel and look like? And what – if you had more of it – would give you that? Write down all the things you could incorporate into your life to give you more of what you want. Now, figure out how to say “yes” more often to those things in your daily life.

2. Find your ratio. If an all-or-nothing approach to resolutions has been your downfall, loosen your grips on the absolutes. Instead, give yourself a ratio. I am going to make these choices 80 or 90 percent of the time. Then, you have grace for not always hitting the mark. Knowing you don’t have to be perfect can often be the impetus you need to move you closer to the life you desire.

3. Take the pressure off. Your resolutions, dreams, desires do not have to look like anyone else’s. If resolutions feel like too much pressure, but you do want some direction, go with setting three or four goals that can be completed in four weeks. Set them the first day of each month. It systematically moves you closer to the life you imagine.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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