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Family Talk: Resolve to make resolutions you can keep

Try choosing more modest resolutions you can achieve this year. [ILLUSTRATION/THINKSTOCK PHOTO]

Try choosing more modest resolutions you can achieve this year. [ILLUSTRATION/THINKSTOCK PHOTO]

Last year, about this time, I wrote a Family Talk column called “Family Resolutions” and advised you to resolve to do better in your family life. I wrote, “Let the three Rs guide your Family Resolutions: Make them Realistic, Recordable and Rewardable.”

Very tidy. Very neat. Maybe very wrong.

I've made resolutions for many years, and I've already made a few for 2018, but I'm beginning to rethink the wisdom of that. Maybe the resolvers among us should rethink resolutions.

First of all, they most often don't work. In 2013, the University of Scranton published a survey that revealed 45 percent of us make New Year's resolutions, but only about 8 percent report they are successful; about half of us claim “partial success” and 25 percent of us honestly admit we failed. If that doesn't take the wind out of your resolution sails, there's more.

According to Statistic Brain, the top 10 most frequent resolutions are as follows:

1. Lose weight/healthier eating: 21.4 percent.

2. Life/self-improvements: 12.3 percent.

3. Better financial decisions: 8.5 percent.

4. Quit smoking: 7.1 percent.

5. Do more exciting things: 6.3 percent.

6. Spend more time with family/close friends: 6.2 percent.

7. Work out more often: 5.5 percent.

8. Learn something new on my own: 5.3 percent.

9. Do more good deeds for others: 5.2 percent.

10. Find the love of my life: 4.3 percent.

See the problem? The goals are too general. Plus, most are demotivating because they consist of things we “need” to do and not what we “want” to do (with the possible exception of “doing more exciting things” and “finding the love of my life”).

And finally, there's a third reason to not make resolutions. Steve Errey says this in his LifeHack blog about resolutions and goals:

Goals introduce a gap between where you are and where you'd like to be, which instantly makes part of where you are right now a place you don't want to be — and this is how the very nature of having goals can hurt your self-confidence and self-esteem ... Show me a goal-hungry person and I'll show you someone who's always wanting something better to come along, someone who's convinced that reaching their goals will lead to their happiness.

So resolutions often don't work, focus too much on stuff we need to do and can undermine our self-confidence. Sounds like we should just give up making resolutions and drift along in life like a leaf in a stream, right?

I can't give them up that easily. But this year I think I'll make more modest and specific resolutions. In pursuing them I'll try to not forget the good things I already possess. I'll try not to let my resolutions undermine my self-confidence. And I'll try to make resolutions that not only improve me as an individual but improve me as a “family man.”

So if you make resolutions this year, keep these things in mind. Resolve to make your resolutions worth keeping.

Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at jpriest@sunbeamfamilyservices.org.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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