New year, new you? Every year, we fool ourselves into thinking that at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, we will be able to make both large and small changes. And every year, it seems, we realize that it isn't as easy as it sounds.
Remember that a good resolution, like a solid goal, usually has a few definable characteristics:
•Focus. Set a definite target: "Lose 10 pounds by June" is better than "Lose weight."
•Challenge. Your resolution should be neither too difficult nor too easy.
•Commitment. Share your resolutions with others. That will help you work on them.
•Presence. Write down your resolutions in detail, and post the list where you'll see it.
•Vision. Visualize the results you want to achieve every day.
So have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Forget the boring, routine promises you won't keep, like working out every day and giving up every food that tastes good.
Resolve to be more creative in 2012. My friend Jenny staggers her resolutions throughout the year, because she knows it takes about 30 days of trying to actually develop a new habit. Then, when she achieves one self-improvement goal, she tackles another positive move. She started this practice about three years ago, and swears by the results.
Want a head start? Here are some ideas to try for 2012.
•Keep a journal. Spend a few minutes every day or so writing down your thoughts, feelings, dreams and ambitions -- not your daily schedule or coming appointments. This is for your eyes only, so be bold. You may be surprised at the ideas you generate.
•Read more. Vary your reading habits and explore different topics. If you usually read novels, try a biography. If you read only history, try a book on modern-day science. Exercise your mind, spark your creative side and take your brain in a completely different direction.
•Learn something new. Take a class in something unrelated to your job or your usual hobbies -- art, auto mechanics, philosophy. Mastering new skills can refresh your outlook on life. Do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Visit the museum you drive by every day. Watch the History Channel. Just break out of your daily routine.
•Meet new people. Make a positive effort to make new friends (or professional contacts) this year. Look for gatherings of people whose interests match yours, and network. The more people you know, the better equipped you are to learn and grow. Then find a creative way to stay in touch.
•Create something for the heck of it. Paint a picture, write a poem or start a garden -- not because you'll get paid for it, but because you want to. You'll find satisfaction in achieving personal goals and motivation to keep trying new things.
•Volunteer. Find a cause you support, and offer your time and service. You'll meet new people and enjoy the feeling of helping out with an important cause.
•Take care of yourself. Get moving after a day at a desk. If you can't devote 30 minutes in one block, take three 10-minute walks throughout the day. Try new foods. Most of us can't sacrifice our favorite things, so make little changes and see what a difference it makes.
•Resolve to see the bright side. Every cloud has a silver lining. Setbacks are part of life. This is the year that you can adjust your attitude to look for the possibilities rather than the problems.
Use the calendar as an incentive, but don't abandon your goals because of an arbitrary date. Every day starts a new year. It's up to you to make it your best year.
Mackay's Moral: Don't just ring in the new year, wring out whatever is holding you back.