Rethink Your Resolutions
By Stacie Johnson
(Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in 2014, but its message is timeless.)
Last year I made a New Year’s resolution to not clean as much. Yep, that is right, I declared I wouldn’t clean my house. I decided that time with my four year old was worth more than an empty sink, sex with my husband was better than a clean kitchen and cuddling my newborn was worth more than folded clothes. So, I put my kids in the clothes from the way, way back of the closet (you know, the ones from Aunt So and So that are hideous) because I didn’t do laundry every other day. I didn’t mop the floor after a couple of spills and I let rings develop in the toilet and then I cleaned them, after they developed (earth shattering, I know!).
While this type of OCD cleaning may not be your life, it was mine…all the above ideas were really quite nerve-wracking to me. This was anarchy in my type A, to-do list-making mind. Something had to be done because I realized I was letting a clean house rule my relationship with my family. Last year I declared I wouldn’t clean as much and by April, I was living in pure bliss.
Now, before you think I had my family living in complete filth…I just changed my priorities and it changed my outlook. For example, when my son asked me pre-resolution era to play cars, typically I responded by saying “I have to clean the dishes first.” After my epiphany, I said, “Of course! Then, can you help me finish the dishes?” or “Can I set the timer for 10 minutes to finish my chores and when the timer goes off I will set it for 20 minutes for play time?”
Post resolution behavior took me to an entirely different level with my family. I took a few deep breaths when my husband gave me a hug just to smell him and soak him in instead of pushing him away to complete some type of organizing busy something or other. We (women) seem to always be too “busy” to realize there is no just cause to our busy-ness. Who is going to love saying, “Yeah, my mom was the best because she always had us sit on the carpet while she mopped the floor by hand…man, our hard woods were always so shiny.” I don’t think so! Not from my boys at least.
I have created memories and put aside chores and duties to show my family love. This is how I’ve captured the hearts of my children, how I’ve solidified my commitment with my husband and how I tell everyone my family is my priority. Today, I don’t feel guilty for having things out of place. My house looks lived in and the people in it feel loved. So, how did I come out with such success with my previous New Year’s resolution? Two simple steps: reflection and theme.
The word resolution is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.” This is what motivates us about deciding our New Year’s resolution. We find a problem in our life and resolve to fix it. Some problems or conflicts may seem more immediate, i.e. your skinny jeans were painted on this evening and you need to negate that situation pronto or your muffin top will become a full-fledged donut soon. Or you may not even realize something or someone in your life may be negatively impacting you until a certain situation or time together reminds you. While there may not have been specific conflict in your past year, we would be remiss if we didn’t take time to review our previous year before making a new solution or resolution. Taking time to reflect on the previous year should be done with thoughtfulness.
This overall examination should answer questions regarding your previous year: What were the challenges? What were some of your successes? What worked? What didn’t? How could it have been different? What were you most proud of? What were you most ashamed of?
Ouch! Some of that might be a bit tough to answer. But if you don’t uncover where you have been and make changes, you’ll end up repeating the same year and have the same dreaded feelings. Your past is your blueprint of where you are heading. You have a chance to change those plans with a new goal if you aren’t quite happy with where it is leading. When you make a resolution without reflecting on your past or acknowledging a problem, you are setting yourself up for failure.
My idea about cleaning less came about with deep self-reflection. I felt so much anxiety and stress about keeping a pristine home that I began to pay attention to my negative behavior towards my family. Once I had time to understand my priorities had been flip-flopped, it was easy to declare what had to change (harder to implement). I was able to review my past behavior, realize that my blueprint needed to change and that I wanted 2014 to be different.
What is your blueprint saying about you? Were the questions difficult? Invest in yourself and take the time to reflect on your previous year: the good and the bad.
Maybe you cringe at the thought of making one resolution a year so you go with a “canned” idea: I will work out more, I will eat healthier, I will lose 20 pounds, I will spend less/save more, I will be happier, I won’t yell at my children and the list goes on. These are great starting points for a resolution, but statements that are difficult to achieve. My success from the “clean less, love more” year was because I changed the semantics, which in turn set me up for prosperity.
The word resolution is not appropriate to ring in the New Year. Life gets a bit hairy sometimes. Like, when my goal is to lose 20 pounds and I burned dinner and my son flushed his underwear down the toilet. What did I feel? Instant defeat…crushed…damaged goods…and it was…only January 2. Specific New Year’s resolutions are goals but because they begin on the new day of a new year they carry more meaning, more weight and more stress.
What I am proposing here is that we take the New Year resolution idea and replace it with your year theme. You see many people seemingly crash and burn with their New Year’s resolution. The component of a year theme is one word or possibly a short phrase that brings your goals into focus. The theme you write down to look at constantly and meditate on. It is yours and it is how you will be remembered for 2015. After deciding on my year theme last year, every time I felt my prior OCD behavior was starting to come back I would just repeat to myself “clean less, love more.” Within this broad theme I created goals to help me break it down into smaller bites.
Don’t fall into the trap of a New Year’s resolution. Be original and create a theme. If someone had just a few words to describe you in 2015 <2017> what would you want them to be?
My 2015 theme is “Look up, not down.” I have the blessing and the curse of an iPhone. This leads to Facebook stalking, a billion Snapchat postings and level 600 in Pet Saga. So, for this year I will repeat to myself “look up, not down” and engage in the present moment.
What will be your theme for 2015 <2017>?
Stacie Johnson is currently living in Michigan with her PGY2 OB/GYN resident husband and three sons. Stacie holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in education.