This time of year the media has a field day with New Year's resolutions. First, articles about resolutions, then articles about how to keep the resolutions you made. It seems that most of these are personal: lose weight, sleep more, be a better spouse/parent/friend. Often, they are ambiguous in nature, and have proven for many to be difficult to keep (as witnessed by the fact that the gym where I work will be busy for, oh, the next 6 - 8 weeks, after which it will return to normal).
I don't really do resolutions, but at various times in various years, I have set a goal to make a change and to make it stick. In an era of increasingly bad news (the war isn't going away, the economy isn't getting any better, the health care plan looks like it's flushing down the toilet in bits and pieces), it can be easy to lose sight of the way that small changes that we take can change the whole pathway that we're walking on, both individually and collectively. While a nebulous resolution may just be an occasion for future guilt, a well-elucidated goal can help you move in the direction you would like to see your life taking.
So, though they're not resolutions, here are some small things that I resolved to do this year that stuck.
I decided to always drive the speed limit. I'll raise my hand here, I'm a lifetime speeder. I think only the fact that I was young and had long blonde hair kept me from about 30 more tickets than I actually got pulled over for in those earlier years. Now that I'm a mom with kids old enough to take notice, and now that I have realized the environmental implications in speeding when we do drive (worse gas mileage for one), I figured it was time to make a change. How I did it: I started putting the car on cruise control for the exact speed limit. Leadfoot Be Gone!
This Christmas I only shopped locally. No orders from Borders, Amazon.com, no trucks pulling in the driveway from UPS or FedEx. Mackenzie's Santa gift came from a local toy store that has been here for 40 years. Asa's gift came from a local sports store, not Dicks or one of the big chains. Mackenzie shopped for Asa in a local bead store, and Asa bought Mackenzie's present at a small gaming store. The Christmas books I always buy for the kids came from a small local bookstore. I did not set foot in Target or Wal-Mart.
Every time I go in the grocery store, I pick up a coupon for a local food bank and scan it at the register.. Our town has a high homeless population, and I feel bad driving past the panhandlers at every intersection. At the same time, I'm not comfortable when kids are in the car to stop or roll down the window (remembering, I guess, a carjacking near where I used to work where a lady did this and the guy opened the door, pulled her out, and drove off with her child in the back). This is one way that I know of to support a place where people can go and get at least some of their needs met, in a way that feels safe for my family.
For me, it works best if what I decide to do is very black and white. The word "Always" works well. It removes that grey area where you're running a little late and well, you could just speed this once. Or a few things ordered online isn't bad (except that's a few more dollars that our struggling local stores don't get, and isn't it sad that our only locally-owned outdoors store is going out of business this year after decades and decades of thriving). To remove that grey area is to remove the opportunity for failure in accomplishing my goal.
Sometimes I forget this when goal-setting. For a few years, I've had a goal to call and write more to my congresspersons, because while it's easy to complain about politics, it really doesn't mean much if you don't let your elected officials know what it is that you support. I keep not accomplishing this, I think because I haven't really made it concrete. So I think this year I will try for one letter or call a month (even if it happens on the 31st at midnight!).
And I definitely have a long-term goal of expanding our family's growing season. Our first year it was just a summer garden. This last year we extended it into spring and fall. Next year I hope for a true winter garden! Oh yeah, and I'll mulch my perennials too for good measure :-)
What do you want to be doing? And how are you going to get there?