Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sylvester's Resolutions


Jewishly speaking, our New Year occurs on Rosh Hashana. It is during that time especially from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur that we as Jews strive to return to God and our truer selves through the process of teshuvah.

Yet the impulse to make resolutions around this particular time of year is part of our innate nature as well, especially because it is so pervasive in the English speaking world. Even in Israel, where the New Year was months ago, Anglos can often be heard wishing each other a “Happy Sylvester". This tradition is tied to Saint Sylvester, an early pope of the Christian Church, who died around the year 300 on December 31st.

Thus the secular New Year is very much in our consciousness, and when it approaches, we often make promises to ourselves. Some of the most popular include: losing weight, stop smoking, spend less money (especially since the credit card bills are arriving in the mail), or even to finally sit down and write that great American novel.

But by February or March, with the year’s gym membership paid up, we fall off the horse and return to our old patterns.

I have spent a lot of time pondering why we fail at so many of our resolutions, even though they are filled with good intentions. I think there are really three major reasons. The first is because it is natural for us to return to our normal patterns. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to break out of habits, because they are in fact habits. The second is, I think, because we tend to be very ambitious in our resolutions. We don’t resolve to lose three or four pounds, no, we resolve to lose twenty pounds in two months. It is just simply too unrealistic. And the third reason is because we focus on just one area of ourselves. Stopping smoking while not finding something else to fill in the void, just leaves one not only empty but tempted as well.

In response to this, I have come up with a proposal for myself and maybe for you as well. First of all, I think one needs to set reasonable achievable goals. As any psychologist will tell you, success builds upon success. Secondly one needs to set up resolutions that are not only physical in nature, but also spiritual, emotionally satisfying, and intellectual as well. The more we wish to improve, the more opportunities should come our way everyday.

With this in mind, this coming New Year, I have decided rather than be ambitious in scope, to be ambitious in quantity. And being a list person, here they are in no particular order:

1. To be able to run a 10K. After watching ‘Run Fatboy Run,’ I thought, why not me. But running a marathon is not only incredibly arduous, but also extremely ambitious. Maybe I should start with a small distance and see how my body holds up. Plus I wouldn’t mind losing a few of these Rabbi pounds that seem to have come my way.

2. Be more patient.

3. Be more loving and appreciative especially of my wife and daughter.

4. Keep in touch regularly with my friends. Hopefully Facebook will be helpful in this. Besides, it is wonderfully addictive.

5. Learn something new everyday.

6. Become a better guitarist. I know, this means I will actually have to take time to practice.

7. And my personal favorite: engage in a creative endeavor everyday. I find when I have created something new, I just feel better throughout the rest of the day.

Good luck with your resolutions, and I will keep you posted as to how mine are going. And to all, a very Happy Sylvester.

2 comments:

Phyllis Sommer said...

great list! last year we embarked on 101 in 1001. it was a pretty cool thing to do - we each wrote out 51 personal goals and then we listed 50 couple/family goals. i like it because it's a long term goal-setting rather than resolutions.... here are some of them if you're interested...

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