January 03, 2014 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"A New Year's Gift to Yourself"Merry Tenth day of Christmas to all of you and Happy New Year, as well. As we all transition into a new year, I hope that each of us will take some time to reflect on what we are most grateful for in regard to the year that has just passed, and what we wish to more intentional about in the year to come.
One of the defining activities of the Christmas season is the giving and receiving of gifts. And, of course one of the defining activities of the beginning of a new year is the making of resolutions. As I hear people talk about the former activity--the giving and receiving of gifts--I sense great joy in what people share about their gifts to others. As I hear people talk about the latter activity, however--making New Years resolutions--I typically sense a very different kind of energy. When people talk about making their resolutions for the new year. I often instead sense underlying feelings of self-criticism, anxiety, and a long list of “shoulds” that people feel they need to live up to.
So I have a suggestion. What if we were to bring the same joy and positive energy that we feel about the giving and receiving of gifts to the setting of new years resolutions? What if we were to think about our new year's resolutions as gifts that we are choosing to give to ourselves?
When you or I want to give a lovely gift to someone we care about, we first take some time to think about what that person would really want. What would make them truly happy? The better we know the person, the more easily it is for us to choose just the right gift that we know will please them. What we desire most for the person to whom we are giving our gift is that our gift will bring them a great sense of joy. We certainly wouldn't give a gift to someone else because we think it's about time they finally change something about themselves and we hope that our gift will help bring that change about. If our resolutions or new commitments are, in fact, gifts to ourselves we would not want to have that attidude about this gift to ourselves either. Instead, we would wonder what new commitment could help us get what we really want, what would please us or make us truly happy, and what would give us a new sense of joy.
With this mindset in mind, I have decided to give myself the gift of three New Year's resolutions for 2014. First, I have signed up to run the Salt Lake City Marathon in April as I love to run and have a goal. Second, I have decided to play more chess, so I have have signed up to play on an online international chess playing site. And finally, I am following a daily reading plan on a Bible study app that selects fifteen minutes of Bible readings per day for me. Doing each of these activities is a gift I can give to myself. Upon reflection this new year I realize that I tend to work more than is good and thus I need more rest and play in my life which the chess and running will help with. The marathon also has the added benefit that several members of my family will be running the Salt Lake City half-marathon the same day and so we will have a great deal of fun as a group training and running together. The chess is also lots of fun as I can share my love of the game with others. And any extra time I spend nurturing my spiritual life is always one of the greatest gifts I can give to myself. I don't feel one ounce of “should” or “have to” about any of these resolutions. I know it's early in the year, but I am already enjoying the benefits that the gift of these resolutions are having on my life.
You know yourself better than anyone. You know better than anyone what more of or less of in your life right now would make you happier and more joyful. Why not give yourself the gift of a new year's resolution that will help increase your sense of balance and wholeness, and thus your over all sense of well-being? And there is one additional benefit to approaching the setting of a resolution as a gift to yourself rather than as a “should,” and that is in the long run, there is a much better chance that you will stay with your positive resolution.
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