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By Michael Strelcheck

As we move through the holiday season, we are once again reminded that it’ll soon be time for the time-honored tradition of the making of the New Year’s Resolution! Every year millions of people make time to sit down and honestly look at what didn’t go well over the last year, and then bravely make choices as to how to change that. What a great way to cap-off the holidays and use its positive momentum!

Curiously, I’ve noticed that this event isn’t getting as much publicity as it once did and seems to be losing popularity.  Perhaps the idea of making agreements with ourselves (and holding up to them) has proven to be far more difficult than imagined. Or maybe this tradition has done more harm than good by setting us up for failure in encouraging us to take on difficult goals? Let’s be honest. Nobody likes failing to achieve their goals and then being reminded of that fact every New Years. It can be a downer.

In my case, most years I tend to lose momentum in a few weeks after bravely declaring my resolutions and I usually try to blame it on the month of January – you know – it can be a little depressing here in Wisconsin with all the darkness and cold. I try to console myself by thinking, “As soon as January passes I’ll get back at it!” But, sadly, most of the time I seem to be kidding myself and conveniently forget my commitment shortly thereafter.  But, on the other hand, there have been a few years where I can honestly say that the resolutions inspired me to achieve a goal and with it, a much needed sense of success. So I find myself divided this year as to whether to keep up the tradition or not?

For the most part, the idea behind New Year’s resolutions seems constructive, for it focuses a person on thinking about what success is to them and how they’re going to make that happen.  Maybe, in order to bring back the interest in New Year’s resolutions, we need to “repackage” it and bring into the 21st Century. Maybe the government could spice up interest by providing a person a “tax benefit” or even a “cash” reward for sticking to their agreements. After all, if a person improves themselves that will be reflected in their community.  Imagine if a lot of people decide to live a healthier lifestyle in 2014 and do, which would reduce the cost of health care, then the “reward” provided by the government would turn out to be a great investment! This could work. We invested in (or bailed out) the auto industry – and that sort of worked out. Being realistic, I suppose that benefit thing won’t fly right now, although I think it has potential and its time will come. Remember, you heard it here first!

Maybe the best way to strengthen the value of making a New Year’s resolution is to consider some positive changes to its rules. Since most individuals make resolutions based on what they think they’re doing wrong, what if we now rewrite the rules and base resolutions on what a person is doing that’s right! The resolution could look something like this, “I agree to continue breathing in 2014 because it’s been working out good for me up to now. In fact I will even agree to breathe more deeply (if and when needed)!” Now this example may seem foolish and appears like I’m rigging the game, but the idea is to make sure you succeed, and by acknowledging the things you’re doing well, and agreeing to keep them up, you’ll psychologically bolster your sense of success. Think about it for a second. How often do you give yourself credit for all the things you’ve done successfully every day?

I recently came across an interesting list of what “success is” at various times of a person’s life and I found it strangely inspiring. The list, though clever, has a lot of truth to it and suggests that success can be way more simple than what we tend to make it.  Maybe the greatest resolution one can make in 2014 is to make success less significant to their happiness. Enjoy, and have a happy New Year!

At age 4 ….. success is … not peeing in your pants.

At age 12 … success is … having friends.

At age 16 … success is … having a driver’s license.

At age 25 … success is … having sex when married.

At age 35 … success is … having money.

At age 50 … success is … having money.

At age 60 … success is … having sex when married.

At age 70 … success is … having a driver’s license.

At age 75 … success is … having friends.

At age 80 … success is … not peeing in your pants.

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