Make a plan and savor the days

By Carol Walker

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It’s that time of year again, the time we usually reflect on the events of the past year, successes and failures, and resolve to do better for the next 12 months. Many resolutions have to do with taking better care of ourselves: stop the bad and restore the good, resolve to drink more water, eat less sugar, learn something new or go to the gym more frequently.

We have a friend who says he hates January and February at the gym because it is so crowded with the people who make  resolutions to work out. Usually after a couple months, people drop off and the place gets back to normal, providing more room for the regulars, the ones who frequent the place year-round.

I have heard New Year’s resolutions have about an eight percent success rate, which sounds pretty dismal, but there is some good news associated with the research. Those who make resolutions are 10 times more apt to change behavior than those who do not have a plan for change.

I usually go through the drill of writing down the things in my journal that I would like to change in the new year, more like goals, but I make the mistake of not looking at those items very often, until the end of the year. Recently, I read some suggestions for improving the odds of bringing about change.

It turns out, January is a good time to make a resolution because so many other people are doing it, and it becomes the topic of conversation in many settings after the new year. It causes us to feel like we are part of a “worldwide self-improvement campaign.” In a sense, we are.

Making a public declaration of the resolution we have in mind also apparently helps. Posting it on the refrigerator, texting a friend, telling a co-worker, keeps us accountable to what we have planned.

We have all probably heard to be realistic with the goals or resolutions. Vowing to lose all that weight that has accumulated since high school might not be attainable in the near future, but deciding to take off 10-15 lbs. could be.

Dr. John Norcross from the University of Pennsylvania at Scranton said in his research, linking two goals, such as cutting sugar and carb consumption and keeping a list of everything we eat and drink, could lead to better success.

Then of course, the age old advice that “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is still true. Failing one day or one week just means we need to get back on the wagon and try again the next.

The last suggestion is to have a planned reward if we reach our goal for the year. Our puppy will do some amazing things if he knows a treat is in the works. Just like the horse goes after the carrot, so we too as humans need to have a reward in store for changed behavior.

With those things in mind, it is probably good to not be too serious about all of our goals for the future. I read online some of the strange and offbeat suggestions for the New Year that might be fun to try.

Why not learn well three good jokes that can be told throughout the year? Who knows when they might come in handy to use in a tense situation. How about waving at other motorists at four-way stops? We may get a confused response from the person in the other car, but it also takes away the anonymity of automobiles and shows the other drivers there is actually another human being behind the wheel. It might just make somebody’s day.

Another suggestion is to get your photo taken in five interesting places during the course of the year. In my mind, they don’t have to be exotic or faraway places because we have a lot of awesome places right here in the Black Hills: old mines, odd shaped trees, places built by the CCC and the route taken by the Custer Expedition.

We can reach for the inner child and determine to learn something we never did as a child. It might be riding a bike or it may be reading about a historical figure we never studied or something as simple as correctly spelling the word, “necessary.”

Here’s one, vow to do one small thing differently each week. Perhaps we could wear something we don’t normally wear, take a different route to a familiar place or try a different flavor of coffee. One thing I want to do is plan my menus better so I am not at Krulls Market every day of the week! I like the employees there, but really, I could save time with better planning.

Whatever we decide to do, we are at the beginning of another 12 months of life, the days are getting longer, spring is coming and there is hope for the future. I want to savor each day of 2018.

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