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January 4, 2011

Column #1,532

New Year’s Accomplishments & Aspirations

By Mike McManus

                Pollster George Barna reports that only 41 percent of Americans will make New Year’s Resolutions for 2011.  And of those who made resolutions in 2010, only a quarter report any “significant, long-term change” as a result.

                Perhaps some fresh thinking is needed.

                In our home, each of us sits down on New Year’s Day to make two lists: Accomplishments for the previous year, and Aspirations for the New Year.  We write them down in a notebook, that we pull down each year. Thus, we hold ourselves accountable. 

                What makes the ritual fun is re-reading old Accomplishments and Aspirations.

                One of my first entries was in 1967, looking back to 1966: “Became a father – and loved it.”  Less wonderful: “Gained 20 pounds” in that first married year!  Among my aspirations for 1967: “Lose 10 pounds!”  Of course, with my wife’s cooking, that was not achieved.

                Each year I aspired to write a book, but did not do so until 1993, 25 years later! Another goal that took several years to achieve was to buy our first house.

                When our first son was four, his Accomplishment was, “I learned how to write my name,” and there it was at the top of the page, ADAM.  He hoped in the New Year “to have another baby.” His second brother, Tim, was born that year. Adam confessed, “Sometimes I don’t eat my food, but I will.”

I just spoke with Adam, now 44, who went to a New Year’s Eve party where he got 20 people writing their “Dreams” for the New Year

By 2006, a four-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, said she learned how to do somersaults, graduated from a crib to a “girl bed,” and “got a baby in mommy’s tummy.” Her little brother is now three. Olivia’s goal for 2007 was to learn to swim, which my wife helped to teach her.  Last year she won several swim meets.

The tradition continues.

                Barna reports that the type of resolutions that are most popular focus on self-oriented changes, such as losing weight and the next most favored goals are financial, such as getting out of debt.  About five percent cite career aims.

Only one percent said they hoped to get closer to God.

                One year my wife became a blood donor and set the goal to “rededicate myself to becoming an enabler, encourager, listener and doer for those in need of love, time and my energy and warmth.”

                That’s the Christian woman I was blessed to marry.

                Opposite her aspirations for 2004 was a Dear Abby article she saved that began with resolutions adapted from the original credo of Al-Anon, a support group for families and friends of alcoholics:

                JUST FOR TODAY, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me…

                JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those I cannot.

                JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration…

                JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I will not speak ill of others…

                JUST FOR TODAY I will do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

                Finally, Abby also re-published the famous Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi with the most eloquent re-statement of Christian aspirations ever written, published 800 years ago:

                Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

                Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

                Where there is injury, pardon;

                Where there is doubt, faith;

                Where there is despair, hope;

                Where there is darkness, light;

                Where there is sadness, joy.

                O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
                as to console;

                To be understood as to understand;

                To be loved as to love.

       For it is in giving that we receive;

       It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

       It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

May your New Year be a blessed one for you and those close to you.

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