By Sheila Wray Gregoire
That time of year is upon us again: the time when post-Christmas bank statements arrive, and we dare to step on the scales again. And our response? Let's hunker down and make those New Year's resolutions!
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if everybody actually kept those resolutions? There would be a shortage of lettuce and a glut of chocolate. Nobody would watch Leno anymore because we'd all be in bed by 10:30 so we could be up at 6:00 to use our Stairmasters. We'd be well-rested, organized, Twiggy-like, super-grumpy people.
That's because resolutions are all about driving yourself to do more. I'm going to exercise more, count more calories, do more housework, work harder and more efficiently and get on the floor and play with my kids. I will not show weakness. I will succeed.
I've tried will power and it doesn't work. It does produce really effective guilt trips, but that's the extent of it. The covers of magazines may tell me that I can lose 43 pounds by eating nothing but fruits for a month, but who wants to eat nothing but fruits for a month? And when we try and fail, we immediately turn to that chocolate stash we kept for exactly that contingency anyway. Resolving too much is a losing proposition, though not the kind of losing we want.
Maybe, instead of pounding ourselves with those stalks of celery, we need to re-evaluate our New Year's attitudes. These resolutions may not be signs of maturity as much as they're signs that we're getting off track. When we get stressed so much over diet and exercise and keeping organized and being perfect, we're don't have the emotional energy just to concentrate on our kids. Sure we want to be healthy and responsible, but don't do it in such a way that you lose what you really crave.
Think about it this way: I can plan our finances so that my husband and I will be comfortable in about eighteen years, but what good is scrimping and saving so much now for later, when later the kids won't be here anyway? I'd rather open up the wallet to take trips with those kids now, while they still want to be with us, even if it takes longer to make our retirement numbers add up. It's the same with exercise. I'm not going to join a gym and be gone three times a week because I want that time with my kids, and I'm not the kind of person whose ever going to make those 6:00 a.m. aerobics classes. So any exercise I do is going to have to involve them. Being responsible about our bodies and our money is important, but it's not the only important thing. There's more to life than spinach and sit-ups.
To help me figure out what is important for the upcoming year, I'm asking myself: what did I do last year that was fun and meaningful? What helped me connect with my kids, with my husband, with my friends? What made me feel excited to be alive? For instance, I have gone that typical exercise route, and I have discovered that treadmills and elliptical machines make great places to hang wet laundry. But I do like taking walks, especially with my family. Maybe I don't get my heart rate up as high, but I do get fresh air and we get a chance to talk about important things. When we go camping, I'm more active, we have fun together without the computer in the way, and I can relax. And when I take time to myself to do absolutely nothing but sip hot chocolate, I feel more peaceful. That's worth something. So these are the things I want more of. With everything else, I'd rather just do less.
I think we need a new model for success. It's not accomplishing a ton as much as it is just loving the people around you. That's what ultimately matters, and it's a lot more fulfilling than lettuce.
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