January 1st is the classic day for New Year’s resolutions. We write our list of good intentions, resolving to set out on a better course. This is admirable, if unrealistic, and it all too rarely gets done.
Sometimes the fault is magnitude; “I will fix my biggest problem(s).” Or it lacks specificity; “I will be a nicer person.” Or worse it is a generic laundry list: I will lose weight, I will go to the gym more. I will keep my house/room/dorm clean. Those are tasks far too dull to spring you into action.
Instead of inspiring, your resolutions turn on you and become silent indictments of character: reminders of failure, testaments to laziness, or lack of commitment. By the end of January interest wanes, by February frustration sets in, and by the end of March, the list is forgotten altogether. At least, until December 31st when you decided to do it all over again.
There is another way to go about it using traditional project planning with a simple calendar. Since most months have thirty days, make a list of thirty different areas you want to improve upon in the New Year. Put one entry on each date of the month. (You can repeat.) It could be as simple as going to a new AA meeting, or mundane like getting the car washed. Or could about connecting: calling a relative, or visiting an old friend. It might also be about self-renewal: a spiritual outing, or going for a hike or to the beach. I live very close to the ocean and drive by it all the time, and I often think it would be good just to listen to the waves. Do I do this? No. It seems self-indulgent when there are so many other things to do, even though I know it helps me put life in perspective. That’s an intention, too.
So on the first of the month you look at that day’s entry. That is the one simple thing you probably can do versus a formidable list of too many. But here is the kicker; whether or not you were able to accomplish the day’s goal, you move on. On the second of the month, you tackle that day’s action step, on the third, the next step. Instead of carrying over the baggage of what you didn’t do you, you focus on the new challenge. Failures don’t pile up, and you have a fresh start every day.
The beauty is that the list repeats. What you couldn’t get to on February 1st maybe you can do March 1st, and what worked on February 2nd you can add to on March 2nd, and so on. Your list is broken up into bite-sized pieces. Just as we say in recovery, “One Step at a time,” this is one resolution at a time.
A wonderful little poem written by Shel Silverstein, sums it up.
All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ ‘bout the things
They woulda coulda shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little Did*
So here is your only New Year’s Resolution. Make today an opportunity for “One Little Did.”
Nora Slattery is a professional business and speechwriter. She is a certified Journal to the Self™ instructor, teaching a workshop created by the Center for Journal Therapy. She is currently working on a memoir in the UCLA Writer’s Program. For workshop information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.