Fail-Safe Your New Year (Delaware Wave)

So here we go again: How many New Year’s resolutions have you actually kept? We all know that most of them fail. And they fail because they’re artificial. You can’t resolve to do something just because it happens to be January 1 — or any date, for that matter. You resolve to do something because you’re prepared to follow it through — now; not tomorrow. A resolution has to make sense for reasons other than what’s printed on the calendar. If not, why bother? The following day you’ll be right back where you started.

Another reason why New Years’ resolutions crash and burn is that they’re usually broad and unrealistic. For example, ‘I’m going to be a better person.’ Or, ‘I need to get myself together.’ What do ‘better’ and ‘together’ mean? And precisely how will you be better or together this year? How will you measure it? Such a resolution is nothing more than a vague, albeit well-meaning intention, perhaps made shortly after a holiday dose of eggnog.

When caught up in the spirit, we can intend to do all sorts of things, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to follow through. Following through simply means knowing what your intentions are. It requires bite-size goals that are specific for the long term, and realistic in the short term. Just as you wouldn’t eat an entire steak in one bite, you shouldn’t take on a goal that’s too massive all at once.

Though bite-size objectives alone don’t guarantee that you’ll follow through, they’ll at least provide a more sensible shot at it. It all comes down to this: People are successful in their resolutions primarily because they’re realistic in their goals, and they possess integrity. At the risk of sounding like a clich integrity is a steadfast determination to say what you mean and mean what you say. It’s an essential part of a person’s outlook and basic psychological make-up. It can’t be faked, and it can’t be picked up once, only to be discarded at will. It’s an all-encompassing part of a person; the part that makes all other virtues possible.

Integrity cannot be practiced for the sake of others. It’s a byproduct of one’s respect and love for one’s own life. Integrity can be developed and perfected if there is an overriding desire to do so. In fact, if this desire exists in a person, then some element of integrity must have been present all along. People who don’t have integrity tend to sneer at the idea or rationalize it away. People who do have integrity are bothered by the possibility that they might not have it. The actual feeling of being bothered by the possibility that one may lack integrity proves something is already fundamentally right about that person.

Of course, failing to follow through on a New Year’s resolution is not an indication that one doesn’t possess integrity, but there’s a lot more to a New Year’s resolution than meets the eye. Though it may make you feel good about yourself during the New Year’s Eve party, you’ll feel a lot better the next morning (at least emotionally) if you skip the posturing and the bluster. Instead, look deeper into refining your integrity by making sure you say what you mean and mean what you say. Your family and friends will respect you for it, and, far more importantly, you’ll respect yourself for it. This vigilance, combined with a careful analysis of the practicality of your goals, will keep you psychologically fit long after the festive glow of New Year’s has faded into the day-to-day routines.

On that note, I’d like to wish all of you, particularly the many people who respond to this column with their thoughts and suggestions, a Happy New Year filled with confidence, self-esteem, and the firm belief that life is, and will continue to be, a beach!