I’m working on the resolutions for this year. There are a few on the short list although I do wrestle with the old idea that resolutions are made to be broken. I want to make some changes but I also want them to stick.
Fortunately I have a good example to follow. Last year my son made a resolution to not take the last of anything (he’s 11, he’s got his own ideas of what’s important) and he stuck to it doggedly throughout the year so that we were still talking about it the evening of December 31st at dinner. Because he’s formed the habit – pretty much the only table manner he has – I suggested that he work on other habits he would like to form. The top contenders from my list include chewing with his mouth closed, using utensils instead of his fingers, and perhaps the most difficult, recycling two items a day from his room full of debris. Early on we made the mistake of encouraging his passion for “inventing” assembling cardboard, paper, straws, pencils, books and anything else that comes to hand – most commonly with tape as the fastener. Because of this we have been collecting all kinds of supposedly innocent materials. He did invent with some of them but, for the most part, our collecting far outstripped his inventing. So the habit we helped him to form was hoarding. Definitely not what we had in mind.
Habits are really what we want to shoot for with resolutions. Something small we can do every day to train ourselves to behave differently. When you look at it that way resolutions really should be a simple matter to stick to. But this morning I heard about another tactic related to habits that should help. I was listening to NPR (because I’m one of those liberal elites) and there was a story about Vietnam Veterans getting over heroin addiction. The basic suggestion was that if you can make small changes in the environment related to the behavior you’re trying to change you can make the new habits stick.
I think this idea is especially powerful for new parents who have an exceptionally effective environmental change built in. Once that little person has invaded your space your life and environment will never be the same again. Forming new habits is easy once you get used to the sleep deprivation, poop, vomit, and screaming.