Happy New Year! I trust you’ve enjoyed your holidays as much as I have. With the exception or having come down with a nasty cold a few days ago, I feel truly blessed. Hey, even that cold might have been a blessing. It kept me inside for three days!
While battling my cold, I had a chance to catch up on some reading. I finished up Al Sharpton’s new book, “The Rejected Stone.”
It is an amazing piece. Sharpton has many haters out there, but it’s hard to even dislike the guy after you’ve read his views on a wide variety of subjects that hit home.
Also, I was leafing through a popular black magazine, Ebony, when I came across a short article written by its editor, Ms. Amy Barnett. The article shared her thoughts on what she called “The 7 Things That Hold Us Back.” Although written for an African-American audience, I think much of what she had to say applies to any human being.
Specifically, it made me think of all those New Year’s resolutions I have made and, frankly, can’t even remember. I suspect most of us do the same thing. So, without getting into all the background on this day’s tradition, I began to wonder why, if my suspicions were correct, so many people make resolutions they never keep.
Ms. Barnett gave me part of the answer. She wrote: “The end of the year is a great time to reflect. ... But before you begin to look forward, you’ve got to look back and shake off some of the things that could be holding you back.”
I read on.”Setting goals without addressing habits and behavior that need to change is pointless.” And there it was. Common sense. I think most of us tie our New Year’s resolutions to some specific thing we want to accomplish, say, losing weight.
What that does is focuses our effort on dieting, exercising, or other activities designed to help us lose unwanted pounds. (I’ve never had this problem, by the way. With me, it’s always been the opposite: too skinny!) We do not, however, think of the habits of mind underlying the outward condition we wish to change.
In other words, by focusing on a smaller waist, many fail to see the bigger picture: lack of self-discipline! So a more useful New Year’s resolution would be holistically based on a personal commitment to improve one’s self-discipline, not eat less or exercise more.
What this does is creates a goal that a person can work toward knowing that the goal can never be fully achieved. This, in turn, takes away the possibility of abject failure. You keep trying. You keep working. And you will know when you see real progress toward whatever result you wish to achieve. Don’t just change your measurements, change your mind.
Not to belabor this but, fifth among Ms. Barnett’s “7 Things That Hold Us Back” she discusses the weight problem among African-American women. She says, “Approximately ... 80% are overweight or obese, which puts us at a much higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many more life-threatening problems.”
I don’t know what the statistics say about other population groups, but I know they are also high, especially for children. The sixth suggestion was “try something new.” She writes: “There’s nothing wrong with your local barbecue spot ..., but the world is a big place. Why not try something new this weekend?”
What? Try something new? Eat some type of food I’ve never even tasted before? Yep. It runs back to the idea of habits. We are creatures of habit, and the best way to break old habits is by developing new ones. We develop new ones by trying something new.
To wrap this up, what I’m going to try to do with my resolutions for this year is to look at my own behavior and attitudes to see if there is something I can change to become a better me. One thing that is on my mind is developing, as a habit, “saying what I mean, and doing what I say.”
I don’t feel I am particularly weak in this area, but I know I can become stronger. It’s simply the way I want people to know me, and the way I want to know myself. You see, I’m not just growing old. I’m growing up.
Have a nice holiday!
Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays in The Herald Bulletin.