For over 20 years, each January 1st, I made a massive list of all the things I wanted to change or accomplish in the upcoming year. Not sure what precipitated this tradition? Maybe my love of making lists along with the thrill of physically crossing an item off said to-do list!
My resolutions were carefully written down, organized by theme, and numbered by the order in which I would tackle each. Now that I think about it, my list resembled the front cover of a woman’s magazine:
- 10 ways to a healthier me;
- 10 books to read (probably the only one I actually accomplished, especially after I launched a podcast featuring Catholic books);
- 10 decluttering projects to tackle;
- 10 ideas for being a better mom (wife, domestic goddess); and
- 10 Spiritual practices to adopt (the other one I mostly complete).
Some Things Never Change
Decluttering last Summer, I found old journals containing resolution lists from previous years. It was funny (or maybe a little sad) how many items carried from year to year, and to this day still, remain incomplete. These incomplete items are the ones in most need of discernment. Maybe they continue unresolved because either they are not part of God’s plans for me or I need to move them up in my priorities.
The lists included such things as:
- 10 ways to lose weight and keep it off;
- 10 Sunday meals to bring the family together;
- 10 people to reconnect with; and
- 10 strategies to get out of debt!
The Autumn Reset
One September, as summer wrapped up and the calendar filled with new activities, I felt an urge to take a fresh look at my January resolutions. The timing seemed perfect, even my calendar (which followed the academic year) was clear and ready for a reset. I tend to enter Autumn refreshed and refocused, as opposed to frazzled in January following the hustle of the holidays, so again the timing just seemed a better fit.
And it was.
First, I lowered my expectations. I set realistic, attainable goals based on my current situation and not what might come. Kind of like not buying size 8 jeans when you are still a size 12 as a motivator to lose weight. In case you have yet to have this experience; trust me, it never works! Celebrating small victories kept me much more motivated. Ten ways to declutter the house, with the list consisting of the ten rooms I wanted to tidy up; I became more specific:
- Tackle the kitchen junk drawer;
- Throw away all socks without a buddy;
- Eradicate all dust bunnies from under beds and in corners; and (my personal favorite)
- Find the actual top of my desk.
Second, I took a long, hard, and prayerful, look at my life and decided what things were essential to not just me but my family. Prayer became the center of every decision. I would take my list of lists to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and sit with Jesus, seeking his counsel. “Lord,” I would ask, “Which of these items align with the Father’s will.” Some tasks from the original resolution list disappeared altogether, while others would stay but move much further down on the priority scale.
God First, The Rest Will Follow
My spiritual goals took precedence over everything because when I am in right relationship with my God, so does everything else. However, I simplified this list as well, focusing on those activities and practices that best honed my ability to hear Him speak into my life.
- Attend Mass weekly (or more often if I can). This resolution is important because it is a tenet of the Catholic faith, but also it is just plain good for you, your soul, and your whole family;
- Join (start or stay with) a women’s faith sharing group;
- Pray every single day; it is easier than you think, especially when you recall prayer can be as simple as a conversation with God!
One of the benefits of this reset thinking included realizing, God wants me healthy, but he wasn’t looking for me to some perfect avatar of myself. My shape-up list, which I framed as becoming a ‘healthier me,’ at a closer glance, focused more on becoming my social media avatar. Which you will not be surprised to learn is not an accurate assessment of who I am or could even become especially having reached the half-century mark. How could I reframe the reset goals to benefit not just me but my whole family? Easy, I asked my family for ideas on how we could all improve our well-being. The new list included very attainable goals:
- Eat at home (together, at the table) more often;
- Incorporate fun into our workouts — try a sport, discover fun places to walk or bike ride, motivate each other to move;
- Try new foods and recipes.
Stop Stealing Other People’s Blessings
Lastly, the crazy Autumn reset included taking a hard look at my calendar. How overscheduled had we become? When deciding which activities to start in the Autumn, have I accounted for practices, games, volunteering or fundraising requirements, and even a possible championship run! If we are honest with ourselves, our calendars fill-up with good things, but not all are the good things God wants for us. Do I overextend because I fear what my “no” will mean to the school, organization, or activity, to whom I have given it?
Once when I complained about being overwhelmed and stressed, my Spiritual Director, the late Deacon Jerry Ryan, wisely countered with, “Stop saying yes to everything, you are stealing other people’s blessings.” Wow, I just never saw it that way! He also mentioned a little something about my pride and my misconception that only I could do the task in question. Someone else will step up if you say no, maybe they are just waiting to be asked? What a magnificent resolution for my Autumn reset, to help someone identify and use their gifts for others.