Melissa Carter: New Year means new beginnings

It’s a New Year and that means a new beginning. I like the idea of a restart every 12 months. Like an annual To-Do-list, the New Year allows us to check off what we accomplished in 2013, reconsider the marks we missed. Then we are allowed to throw the list away for good and start a new one. But first, we should take a hard look at the missed achievements from years gone by.

Let’s start with the recent past. Last year, my goal seemed fairly simple. I strived only to post a cat video to my YouTube channel that would obtain at least 30,000 views. I strived to catch one of my three cats in an objectively adorable moment. But nothing the cats did caused more than 100 folks to view their videos. Clearly, cat videos were not my forte.

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Like so many others, I have dedicated other New Years to getting in shape, only to lose motivation by the Spring. Back in 1985, I promised myself to do calisthenics every day. I failed. I certainly would have been an Olympian by now had my will power reached my creativity.

Then, of course, there is the year in my 20s when I vowed to get out of debt. I even went so far as to outline on paper exactly how much money would be taken out of each paycheck so as to clear my debt. The fact I had more than one maxed-out credit card should have been an indication of my deficient financial discipline. But ringing in the New Year didn’t miraculously cause my spending habits to change. It wouldn’t be until I was nearly 35 when I finally cleared the debt on those cards and it was not because of New Years.

The fact is that the calendar is not the key to success. For me, organization is the answer. One year, I bought the tools to get organized – on my credit card of course. I bought small shelves, file folders, and labels would solve it all. In reality, some of those items stayed in their plastic wrap the entire year, waiting to be used.

Trying to force change on yourself can cause stress. So naturally, I once swore off stress. It would be that easy, I declared I would no longer stress about things in my life and, poof, it would happen. This mentality lasted almost to Jan. 3.

I have yet to call the aforementioned New Year’s promises “resolutions,” because that’s not what they have been for me. The dictionary defines resolution as “firm determination,” and I have not been firm or determined in integrating these changes into my life. They are more like professions of my insecurities, an announcement of what I realized I couldn’t achieve alone in private.

I am hesitant to create any goals for 2014, since based on previous years I’m unlikely to achieve them anyway. But the American Psychological Association, or AMA, would tell me to remember they perfection is unattainable. On it’s website the AMA gives New Year’s Resolution-ers the advice to recover from mistakes and get back on track when creating change.

They also advise you to talk about it, and share with your friends and families your goal for the New Year. They say having someone to share the journey with makes it less intimidating.

I would add to their list of suggestions the idea of only making changes you sincerely want to make. Don’t simply participate in New Year’s so as to talk yourself into doing something. According to Forbes Magazine, only 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

New beginnings require honesty and knowing you aren’t truly committed to making real change will defeat any resolution before the clock even strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.