Francis Campbell: Doing your best is 2020’s best resolution

  • January 17, 2020

The early days of 2020 have already relegated many best intentions and New Year’s resolutions to the try-again-next-year bin.

The published reasons why resolutions are likely to fail are almost as numerous as the scuttled personal pledges.

A Postmedia News article by Scott Hannah suggested that resolutions often fail for various reasons: we are stuck in our ways, because we lack a clear understanding of what we need to do to help ourselves follow through on our plans, because we are motivated by family or friends in ways that don’t help us achieve our goals or because we are just not motivated enough.

The article advises picking resolutions you are passionate about, choosing resolutions that are doable and setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. 

Daniel Wallen of the self-help website Lifehack says resolutions fail because people treat the marathon of self-promise as a sprint.

“Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating,” Wallen writes. “If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week.”

Wallen say self-doubt is the cause of many shelved resolutions.

“Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again.”

Wallen suggests that a common resolution killer is an inability to enjoy the process.

“The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it,” Wallen wrote. “The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently.”

Are Catholic objectives any different than resolutions of the general population?  Nancy Flanders, an American mother of four home-schooled children, offers some suggestions in Catholic Digest magazine.

“There are countless spiritual resolutions to make for the new year, but picking just one or two is ideal so that you don’t become overwhelmed or start to feel like a failure if you miss them once or twice,” Flanders writes. “Just remember to keep it simple at first, and as your resolutions turn into habits, you can add more.”

Flanders’ first suggestion for Catholics is that they resolve to go to confession on a regular basis. She also advocates celebrating feast days with your children, bringing a friend to Mass, renewing baptismal vows and attending daily Mass, if possible.

Possibly, her best suggestion is to set aside time each day to pray.

“Start small,” Flanders advises. “If you haven’t been praying daily at all, set aside just five minutes during your favourite part of the day. If you already pray daily but feel like you can do more, then choose a time of day when you aren’t praying to add additional prayer time. In the mornings, you can say a prayer to start your day. At three o’clock you can try the Divine Mercy Chaplet. And of course, if you aren’t praying the rosary daily, you can add those 15 minutes in during your day even if it ends up being while you’re driving.”

Goals and resolutions ought to be simple enough for Catholics. At the risk of adding credence to the seemingly ineffective efforts of the First Lady of the United States, the goal of being your best is something worthy of striving to achieve.

If you are a parent, be the best mother or father you can be. If you are a sibling, be the best brother or sister you can be. Be the best son or daughter, the best friend, the best co-worker, the best teammate, the best parishioner, the best community member.

And when you fall off the horse, get right back on. Best efforts to improve as a person, a parent, Christian, friend or co-worker can never come too late. 

If the 2020 resolutions have already failed, Catholics can always put their best foot forward during Lent, which begins Feb. 26.

“Maybe you don’t buy into the whole New Year’s resolutions hoopla and would rather wait until Lent to focus on the changes you need to make,” Flanders writes. 

Or maybe you bought into the New Year’s resolution goal but already came up short. Lent does provide a prime opportunity to reload and give it another shot.

Like myriad secular resolutions, our goal of supplanting selfish motivations with a pursuit of God’s will remains a lifetime of try, backslide and try again.

(Campbell is a reporter at the Halifax Chronicle Herald.)

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