By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published December 21, 2021
“The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” -Melody Beattie, author
I suspect that all of us at one time or another have made New Year’s resolutions. Exercise regularly. Eat healthier. Lose weight. Go to confession more frequently. Be a kinder, loving person. Be more active in our parish.
The problem with resolutions is they tend to be forgotten in the daily routine and lose their original intent. By the time Valentine’s Day rolls around we have retreated to former habits.
I suggest we need a better way of identifying resolutions, then an approach to ensure that the resolutions are kept.
An earlier “Senior Side” column introduced a book by Sister Janet Schaeffler, OP,—“Let This Be the Time: Spiritual Essentials for Life’s Second Act.” The book identifies 12 needs older adults should explore to better understand and respond to the challenges of aging.
As I related the 12 needs to my personal situation, it dawned on me that they could also be used to identify possible resolutions.
Let’s review the needs and related questions to identify resolutions that might be applicable to our individual situations.
- Live a Life of Meaning and Purpose—ask the question, am I fulfilling my true purpose in life? How can I grow in my relationship with God and others?
- Love and Relationships—as we age, we realize that we need the love and support of others. Am I seeking or ignoring the need for love and new relationships? What must I do?
- Ask and Explore Questions—what questions remain open as we get closer to the end than the beginning? What is my plan for aging well?
- Continue to Learn and Grow—am I using newfound time as an opportunity to explore and learn new areas of growth? Am I exercising my brain to strengthen memory and learning?
- Navigate Change and Transition—am I accepting change positively or am I satisfied with maintaining the status quo? How can I embrace change more effectively?
- Cope with Losses—how well have I coped with the loss of a loved one? Have I been able to go on with life and not be overwhelmed with grief? How can this experience transform me?
- Be grateful—have I truly been grateful for the many gifts that God has provided? Or, do I fret over things not received? How can I express my gratitude?
- Forgive—am I able to truly forgive and forget? Can I acknowledge my reluctance to forgive when I have harmed someone? How can I rebuild broken relationships?
- Give—how can I give of my time, talent and treasure to help my family, friends and community? Can I use my remaining years in service of others? What talents can I share?
- Spiritual Integration—am I able to integrate my spiritual being with others in forming the body of Christ? How can I create spiritual integration in my home, family, parish and community?
- Let Go—can I let go of my worldly possessions to help the less fortunate? What is my plan for letting go? Can I let go of attitudes and behaviors that interfere with having loving relationships
- Prepare for Dying and Death—how will I face my passing? What must I prepare in advance for my family? What provisions have I made to deal with the realities of aging and eventual passing?
One of the mistakes we tend to make when establishing resolutions is to attempt to do more than is reasonably practical. Think in terms of using the 12 needs over an extended period. It is better to accomplish few resolutions each year than to fail attempting to do too many.
I reviewed the needs and identified two areas of opportunity in the New Year ahead.
My first resolution is to focus on how I can better live a life of meaning and purpose. What is my true purpose in this life? The answer for me is obvious. What can I do to receive the gift of eternal life? With this direction, I can now identify some specific things I can do to better prepare myself for eternal judgement.
My second resolution is to do a better job of navigating change and transition. We cannot change reality. We have to adapt to things that happen to us as part of God’s plan.
One of the realities of aging is that we will experience a great deal of change. Our bodies change. Our brain may decline from lack of adequate stimulation. We may experience the loss. We may relocate. We may embark on a new career or venture. We may experience health issues. In reality, change is a constant in our senior years.
Senior Side provides a platform to communicate with senior adults. I plan to use the column to help fellow seniors better cope with changes brought about by aging.
The second challenge in making New Year’s resolutions is to keep them. One way to improve the odds is to share the resolutions with a spouse, close friend or confidant. If we schedule follow-ups periodically to review our progress, the encouragement and accountability can help us persevere.
Make 2022 the best year of your life by identifying and committing to challenging and personally relevant resolutions.
Happy New Year!
Bill Clarke, former business executive and teacher, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. To send thoughts to Bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.