A new year is upon us and I can almost smell the possibility. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day leaves me stumbling around in a perpetual daydream as I wonder what the next 12 months have in store for me, for my family.
The end of one year and the beginning of another leaves us in a sweet season of hopeful anticipation, where we envision dreams becoming reality and goals being conquered.
And, as tradition goes, it’s also the season for making New Year’s resolutions that focus on self-improvement in an effort to make the coming year better than the last.
For some, making New Year’s resolutions evokes feelings of excitement and kicks ambition into high gear. But for me, this ritual elicits nothing more than feelings of failure. Because every year, I find myself making the same exact resolutions as the year before.
My New Year’s resolutions usually go something like this:
Spend less, save more.
Lose enough weight to fit into my pre-baby jeans.
Eat healthier. Stop using sugar consumption to cope with the chaos and insanity of raising children.
Watch less TV, read more books.
Now, believe it or not, I’ve never accomplished any of these. Not one. I start the year off strong, motivated, yet by the end of January, my resolve has been sucked dry.
But I finally figured out why.
It’s because I don’t really care about any of these things.
I don’t care that I’m a few pounds heavier than I was pre-kids. I don’t care that the number in my savings account hasn’t budged. I don’t care that quality time with my husband involves watching TV at night instead of doing something productive. I don’t care that I haven’t managed to read the stack of self-improvement books sitting on my nightstand because I stayed up too late watching TV. And I don’t care that I need a hit of sugar, sometimes a few, to help me through the long, weary days of motherhood.
But what do I care about?
I care about teaching my kids that it’s not always about our own well-being—that sometimes self-improvement comes when we focus on improving the lives of those around us.
Now that’s not to say attempts at self-improvement aren’t worthwhile. Of course we should be taking care of our bodies, finances, homes, and relationships. But in focusing solely on ourselves, we can end up forgetting about everyone else. That there’s a world full of people who could use a reason to smile, and that we might just be able to give them a reason.
So this year, I’m saying “no” to my typical self-improvement resolutions and, along with my children, will be focusing on improving the lives of those around us.
I’m not talking big life-changing acts of service. More like small, day-changing acts of kindness.
I sat down with my oldest child, and together we came up with a short list of things we will commit to do for someone else in the coming year.
Some of our ideas are as follows:
Make pretty pictures for kids at school who are sad.
Deliver cookies to a neighbor.
Carry out a monthly random act of kindness that includes paying for someone else’s goods or services.
Bring fresh flowers to neighbors when the winter gets to be just a little too long.
Write letters to family and friends letting them know they are loved.
Give a letter of kindness or a handmade picture to a stranger.
Simple enough, right?
Instead of being defeated by my inability to lose those last few pounds, or add a few bucks to my name, or trade in sugar for celery, I pray that my family is uplifted by our ability to add goodness to the life of another through simple acts that warm the heart in a cold world.
This year, may we resolve to make the new year less about us and more about someone else. Because sometimes the key to a better life is to make life better for someone else.