Ushering in a New Year often fills us with a sense of anticipation, a veritable “clean slate”. Although, in reality, nothing changes from 31 December to 1 January. We live in the same homes, work at the same jobs, look the same as the day before.
Some of us would, at the crack of January, set out our New Year’s resolutions: the goals we hope to achieve, the habits we’d finally rid ourselves of and the items we’d tick off our bucket list.
Unfortunately, my track record for keeping resolutions has been deplorable – whether it’s saving up for a holiday or working on relationships with others. Perhaps I failed to appreciate that keeping resolutions requires changes to be made and consistent effort.
This year I’ve done some research and this is how I’m going to approach my resolutions differently:
1. Focus on one thing
I have 10 New Year’s resolutions and that’s not counting the sub-points. Working on all the resolutions at once will most definitely result in me falling flat on my face and getting discouraged.
Dramatic changes are usually unsustainable. If we want to achieve any goals, we’ll do better to choose just one (or two) at a time. This process of selection helps us sift out what is important and forces us to consider why we ought to focus on that particular resolution.
I pored over my list and it became clear which one to prioritise: I want to be more patient with my children. (This is actually a euphemism for “I need to stop shouting at my children when I am angry”.)
I yearn to be able to discipline my children without forgoing a close-knit relationship with them. While the saying, “Old habits die hard” may be true, I am hopeful that habits can be replaced with newer, healthier ones.
It became clear which goal to prioritise: I want to be more patient with my children.
2. Build new routines
A tagline from a local gym goes, “Stop making resolutions. Start a ritual.”
I think there is some wisdom in that. Experts tell us that if we want to make a change, we must build alternative routines. Once we have identified the resolution we want to focus on, we need to find a way to incorporate it into our lives.
Let’s say my goal is to exercise more in 2019. The first step is to fix a regular time to exercise and put it down on my weekly calendar. It is needful to think through the details: What type of exercise am I going to do? Where am I going to do it?
It is also vital to consider in advance how we will respond to difficulties that may arise, such as bad weather or when we are feeling too tired.
The more we think through the details of our routine, the higher the chances we have to make a lasting change.
I have observed that I lose my temper more easily when I am tired. Accordingly, one of my newly established routines is to sleep by 11 pm daily. My watch timer goes off at 10.50 pm to remind me to go bed. I may struggle whenever I have unfinished tasks. But what will help me stay on track is to recall the reason for the routine: I want to communicate with my children in a healthier manner.
What will help me stay on track is to recall the reason for the routine: I want to communicate with my children in a healthier manner.
3. Find a community
Communities such as Alcoholics Anonymous and CrossFitters show us that social groups can be effective in helping individuals stick to new routines.
It could be the encouragement we get from others not to give up, the belief that transformation is possible, or the reminder that we are not alone in the challenges we face.
We may have to step outside our comfort zones to find such a community: join a gym or sign up for a class. Or we may even band with friends who share the same goals.
Meeting up in person is the most ideal; however, online communities are also possible. A community can be as small as two persons. I have one friend in mind who I hope can journey with me in my bid for more patience. Our “meet-ups” will most likely take place on Whatsapp when my children are asleep.
Wish me luck in my endeavour to keep to my resolution in 2019. By implementing the above tips, I am hopeful of achieving better results than previous years. And I hope you will too!
© 2019 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Sue-Anne Wu is a coffee addict and nature lover. An avid reader, books are her lifeline in the choppy waters of life, marriage and parenting. She lives with 4 rambunctious boys aged 3, 6, 8 and 38.
- What do you hope to achieve in your relationship with your child this year?
- If you wish to make a positive change in your parenting, join our Parenting with Confidence workshops!