About those resolutions for the new year...
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By Steven Campbell  January 17, 2014 12:00 am

So New Year's Day has passed already, and by this time you’ve probably had some very different thoughts from the rousing ones you had on Jan. 1.

If you made some New Year's resolutions (and almost 55 percent of America’s population does not), how are they working out? If you made them, your feelings have probably landed into one of three camps. No. 1 – feeling guilty because you haven't stuck to them. No. 2 – feeling confident because you have stuck with them. No. 3 – feeling nothing because you really don’t care.

It’s interesting. Dr. Richard Koestner is an authority on goal setting and self-regulation from McGill University. In Psychology Today, Koestner paints a pretty dim picture for success. He observes that 22 percent fail in one week, 40 percent in one month, 50 percent after three months and 60 percent after six months. (Personally, I think anyone who sticks to anything for six months is doing pretty well.)

The top three resolutions are to stop smoking, lose weight and stop drinking. Another common resolution is “getting organized.” Now that one surprised me, as I never knew that disorganization was a problem. I’ve always been disorganized.

Then there is the “live life to the fullest” resolution. That one is useless, because how do you determine if you have, and how do you manage to do that every day? I’ve tried to live each day to the fullest, but people and things seem to always get in the way.

So, by any reckoning, it’s difficult to keep resolutions. In fact, statisticbrain.com says that 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, and only 8 percent are successful in keeping them through the year.

Here’s an interesting breakdown of those who do keep them: 39 percent of people in their 20s achieved their resolutions last year, while only 14 percent of those in their 50s kept theirs. I would have guessed that those of us who are older, with the wisdom born out of decades of simply living, would have had a better record.

However, I fall in that 14 percent who successfully are meeting their resolutions.

My resolutions, however, are different.

When I turned 60, I decided to change my resolutions into themes rather than behaviors. A theme is simply a word that embodies something that has been missing from my daily life. Rather than defining specific behaviors I want to do (or do not want to do), I develop a one-worded theme (which are lot easier to remember), and then allow my days to unfold from there. I cannot tell you how refreshing this approach has become. 

Here are two I have used:

• Theme: mindfulness – Mindfulness simply means paying more attention to the present. For many years I lived in a constant state of relentless multitasking. 

However, research has linked “mindfulness” with being able to curb overeating, experiencing less stress and anxiety, and even helping with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. We can practice this in many ways – taking time to smell the roses, or pausing to focus entirely on a child during conversation, or purposefully enjoying the feeling while chatting with a dear friend.


• Theme: enjoyment – As you probably already know, all of us are far more likely to do things well when we enjoy what we’re doing. Here are some do-able suggestions: 


1. Save a weeknight just for you: If others ask you to do something those nights, just tell them you have plans. Use the time for reading, studying, thinking or the ultimate luxury of doing nothing. 


2. Schedule a treat for yourself: It could be on your lunch break, a weekend or it could be leaving work early. Get a spa treatment, go see a movie or get your nails done. Schedule it in and make it happen. 


3. Buy tickets in advance: It could be for the Green Music Center, sports, theater or any other event you would enjoy. Schedule the plans with a friend later or go solo. 


4. Join a club: It could be a singing group, gardening group, book club, quilting (or any other craft) circle, biking, walking, running, etc. 

What are you interested in? Look up a club in your area today and join. If you can’t find a club, consider starting one yourself. 


5. Exercise in a way that is fun: Take that first step (which, as you know, is always the hardest). 

Walk for 20 minutes in the morning. And then build on that success daily. Vary how you spend that time. On some days use the time for thinking and daydreaming. 

My favorite time of the time is when I jog up Warrington Hill behind Rohnert Park, listening to my favorite music on my iPod shuffle.


Finally, remember this. You can make these themes any time. 

There is no law that says you have to make them on New Year's Day. If you make yours in February, the theme police will not show up and frown at you.

You are doing well.


Steven Campbell is the author of "Making Your Mind Magnificent" and conducts "The Winners Circle" every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. He can be contacted at 480-5007 or steve@anintelligentheart.com. For more information, go to www.anintelligentheart.com.

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