We should be hard at work putting our yom tov resolutions into action. Over the month of Tishrei, over the course of the chagim, we often say that we’ll do so-and-so. And at first we try, but then after a couple of weeks our new resolutions fall to the wayside.
I’m the perfect example of this. At the very end of Yom Kippur, I made a decision to daven Shacharis or Minchah each day. I began well enough, having the time, not needing to rush. But by the end of Shemini Atzeret, my resolution began to fade. I would only say the berachot, or not even those. Or I’d skip important parts of Shacharis. And then one day I missed altogether. I’m human like everyone else, and keeping to something you promised you’d do is very tough.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results,” said Einstein. Making the same resolutions year after year and not reaching your goal is silly. Put that resolution on the back burner. Take another thing that you want to change or add to your life. And want is the key word.
If you feel “I should change my ways,” it won’t last. If you want to change your ways, that’s quite different and has a better degree of success.
Another common problem is people putting way too many things on their resolution list. No one person can decide to go to the gym, daven every day, be nicer to people in general, drink less sweetener in their coffee, etc., all at once. We need to see what we can achieve normally in a month. If there are too many things, it’ll all fall apart.
“According to researcher John Norcross, who published his findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50 percent of the entire world’s population makes resolutions each new year. Among the top resolutions are weight loss, exercise, quit smoking, better money management, and debt reduction” (India Today).
The most crowded month of the year at the gym is January; the least crowded month at the gym is February. January is probably the month when the most resolutions are made. And midwinter is probably where many of the resolutions fail.
It’s important to be specific when making a goal. Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” you could say, “I want to lose five pounds by the end of January.” When it comes to the gym, instead of saying, “I want to become the strongest person in the gym,” you could say, “I’d like to bench press 80 by the end of January.”
These are examples of being realistic without getting out of control. This way your expectations aren’t too high and your goal is achievable. And yes, this is an accomplishment that is possible to do.
Success magazine discusses how important it is to find someone accountable. You can’t just make a vague resolution. You can make a decision to do something different, but have someone check up on you. That is crucial.
Don’t take on too many resolutions. Take on only those you think you can accomplish. Better to finish one than to fail at four.
I was told by a spiritual woman who knew about my resolution that instead of taking on the whole Shacharis, I should take on just the berachot. The berachot are doable and not overwhelming. And I think she is correct in her thinking.
Resolutions should be realistic. Don’t promise you’ll be able to finish something when you know that you probably won’t. Be honest with yourself. Don’t trick your mind into thinking you can do something you know you can’t finish or that you can do something that is taking on way too much.
According to Peter Economy from Inc.com, “About 60% of us admit that we make resolutions, but only about 8% of us are successful in achieving them.”
Economy goes on to state more interesting tidbits: Saving money is one of the top five New Year’s resolutions and also in the top five for most commonly failed. Women make health-focused resolutions while men pledge to find a new job and lay off the alcohol.
More than half of respondents said they fail their resolution before January 31.
Even though my resolution of praying daily was too much, it was in the spirit of the chagim. And having someone, a good friend and spiritual adviser, tell me to start small made all the difference. When I pray this morning, I’ll say the berachot and ponder, like always, why women can’t say, “I’m happy, Hashem, that you made me a woman.” But that’s for another time.
It’s not too late to make resolutions. Just don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t pressure yourself. Do what you know you can do. And Hashem will be there to help you along.
Good luck, and please share your resolutions with me, dear readers, as inspiration to us all.
Michele Herenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.