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This New Year's, no punishing resolutions

December 24, 2012|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • Thousands of people around the country join health clubs in the first week of the new year as part of their New Year's resolutions.
Thousands of people around the country join health clubs in the first week… (Spencer Platt / Getty Images )

Got those New Year’s resolutions ready?

After a month or more of indulging at holiday parties and splurging on gifts, the time has come to get back on track. Lace up your sneakers and lock up your credit card or face constant reminders from bossy lifestyle publications, which will most certainly devote the start of 2013 to demanding we get back to our “better” selves. Or so they’d have us believe.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking it easy after the holidays. The problem with the type of New Year’s resolutions people typically make is that they’re often rooted in guilt or self-loathing. We’re not thin enough, rich enough, successful enough.

It’s our annual ritual. After all of the joy of the holiday season, we immediately kill our buzz and convince ourselves that we don’t measure up. This year, we tell ourselves, we can and will do better.

“We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs and wants,” writes Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. The result: We’re always trying to measure up to other people, and the failure to do so leaves us feeling ashamed.

Why is measuring up so important anyway? Sure, other people’s success provide inspiration to some extent, motivating us to achieve the goals our society has prescribed. But then again, Jean-Paul Sartre wasn’t off the mark when he wrote, “Hell is other people.”

So this year, rather than punishing myself with a resolution that's based on comparing myself to other people, I’m taking the empowering route.

On the Sept. 14 “Back to School” episode of “This American Life,” they talked about the OneGoal program, used in public schools around Chicago to help discipline and motivate underperforming high school students to reach one important goal: college.

Yes, the program is catered to a different demo seeking a different life goal, but I was taken by the simplicity -- and efficiency -- of its mission. And I want to adapt it to my life: Choose one important goal and don’t give up. You're never too old to find new ways to grow and reach your full potential, right?
  
“It's OK to be scared. It's OK to kind of stumble and fall along the way. And you should. It's not going to be easy. It shouldn't be easy. This is your life, OK? It's not going to be a bed of roses. OK?” said Michelle Steffel, a teacher interviewed on the radio program.

So it requires more of a commitment than with your typical resolution. But the prize at the end of the journey -- actual self-improvement -- will leave you feeling empowered, which is so much sweeter.

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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier

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