New New Year’s Resolutions

Bored by tired, overused New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, spend more time with family? Here are some suggestions for commonly overlooked problems that make for great resolutions…

Change how I complain — Complaints are perhaps the most addictive substance on the planet – they easily become our way of comprehending the world and socializing with others. Complaining isn’t all bad though; complain effectively and it becomes a catalyst for change. But habitual griping —with no attempt to rectify things— is at best ineffective, at worst it exacerbates situations, brings everyone else down, and makes you no fun to be with. Notice how you complain. When you are about to complain, are you ready to follow it up with something that will forward a solution? If not, then what’s the point, other than to wallow in the feeling of being right about how much something sucks?

Question myself —  I don’t mean this as in doubting oneself, but rather as in being willing to ‘hang a question mark’—as it were— on the end of one’s own assumptions once in a while. We would love it if our enemies did this; maybe we could benefit from it too! Be-the-change-you-wish-to-see… everyone’s core beliefs can benefit from occasional updating.

These next ones are variations on the ‘question myself’ theme:

Pull the log out of my own eye before harping on the splinter in theirs — Focusing on the problems of others is a global distraction from the unpleasant work of improving ourselves. Focusing on their problems merely provides us comfort; it is no strategy for change. Notice how good political parties, religious groups, etc. are at pointing out the folly of their rivals, and how blind/defensive they seem to their own down-sides. This is a human frailty we all possess; it is unreasonable to expect others to adopt this habit if we do not do the same.

Notice the good in the bad and vice versa — Strife is the whetstone upon which we sharpen our mind, our character.  When we fail to acknowledge this, ‘bad’ things simply make us miserable. Noticing silver linings bouys our spirit, helps us to persevere, shifts our mindsets from debilitative to facilitative thinking, and focuses us on the opportunity within a problem rather than just the problem itself. Failing to adopt this mindset provides a recipe for ongoing misery. The flip side is beneficial too: noticing the bad in the good tempers our tendencies towards overly simplified perspectives.

Notice the weaknesses in my strengths and vice versa — Example: a strength of political conservatives is honor & respect for authority. Respect for authority shifts social chaos to order, but a failure to check authority can lead to dogmatism. A strength of liberals is compassion. Assistance is compassionate, yet it can have the unintended consequence of creating dependence. Each strength becomes a weakness. Find your strengths and you are close to locating your weaknesses. If you find it easier to identify your weaknesses, so too, your strengths are in close proximity to them. Are you a negative thinker?  Properly tempered, it makes you a realist. Are you anxious? Anxious people are more trusted, safer drivers and have better memories. Lazy? You are patient. Over-analytical? You are thorough. It is easy to find the strengths in your character flaws, and incredibly valuable. Such a mental strategy adds nuance and depth to our own views, makes us less dogmatic, assists us in seeing where our opponents are right, helps expand areas of agreement with others, and helps us better articulate our own position so others may better understand us.

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