Small Relaunches New Year’s Resolution Tradition

I am old and wise enough not to have made any New Year’s resolutions in quite a few years. Long ago, I made lists each year toward the end of December. While too omuch time has elapsed for me to recall any particular resolutions,I do remember how positive I was that I would fulfill them. I was fresh enough to believe that good intentions sufficed.

Sometime later, having created an endless trail of failed resolutions, I understood that I had once been much too ambitious, and that if I hoped to keep any of my promises to myself, I had to shorten my list. Which I did. I began limiting my list to five items, no more. And indeed, I was able to achieve some follow through—for several weeks or up to several months. But by the time spring arrived, I had let my resolutions drop with little guilt or fanfare. The season promised all sorts of renewal. I had too much to look forward to to let my lapses weigh on me.

Then, around ten or so years ago, I stopped even thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions were magical thinking, I rationalized. They very rarely led to long-term change. I was old and wise enough to strive for personal evolution on an ongoing basis. I didn’t need to make pronouncements and set new rules for myself.

But this year, since I’ve been thinking small, I thought about reconceiving the notion of resolutions, and taking up the banner of change once again. Perhaps if I scaled down the desire for and promise of change, I might develop a different relationship with New Year’s resolutions.

So I decided that I would make one—and only one—resolution for 2020. Not only that, I wouldn’t strive for revolution; I’d aim for a modest shift. A behavior I had a chance of changing. But as I reflected on just what that shift should be, I began to feel overwhelmed. Too many options in too many areas of my life presented themselves, each clamoring for attention.

Just when I was on the point of giving up, I had an idea: Instead of resolving to change my own behavior, Stephen and I could exchange resolutions. We could each think of one behavioral shift the other person could strive for that would create a win-win situation by benefitting both our relationship and ourselves in the coming year.

I immediately loved the idea. It was much easier for me to request a small—and attainable—change from Steve, than from myself And he was enthusiastic about my idea. What relationship wouldn’t benefit from a boost, and this was a perfect way to achieve this boost.

I quickly isolated one shift on Steve’s part that would nourish my well being. And he immediately requested a small shift from me. What a lovely way to launch the new year, both of us pleased by the willingness of our partner, as well as optimistic about the outcome.

One more triumph for small.

Drift Wood Bark, Navarro Beach

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