New Year’s resolutions are an important opportunity for many people to make improvements in their physical and mental well being; however, I focus on trying to improve myself throughout the year as necessity arises – either from personal reflection, or often at the prompting of family or friends.
C.S. Lewis wrote “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” Most interactions with my patients during annual exams center on preventive health care subjects like smoking cessation, eating right, getting exercise, driving safely, alcohol use and even the benefits of kindness to family and friends.
The wonderful thing about being human is that we can change. While there are rare individuals who can change many things at once, I encourage my patients to focus on one objective at a time. Let’s use smoking cessation as an example. I am a fan of writing a Personal Contract to hold myself accountable. The contract should be practical and specific, and might look something like this:
Objective: Quit smoking by April 1
1. Cut my current usage in half for two weeks.
2. Wean down to one cigarette per day for the next week.
3. Switch to a brand I don’t enjoy – or flush them down the toilet and never buy another one again!
4. Go for a 15 minute walk daily.
5. Consider getting in a pool of fellow smokers at work where each pays $50, and the winner takes the pot.
6. Call Colorado QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
7. Talk to my doctor about nicotine patches or Chantix.
8. Address the “habit” of smoking. What do I unconsciously associate cigarette smoking with, and what can I do to change that behavior?
Everyone is different, so each plan will be different. You can create a plan like this for anything you want to change.
Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.” Let us all make a habit of being the better parts of ourselves – starting now.