I have resolved to be more present in 2017. I will be engaged more and on auto-pilot less in all facets of my life – as a father, husband, friend, co-worker, and son.
I’m feeling satisfied with my resolution – proud of my worthy goal that bucks convention like losing excess weight, going to the gym more often or saving money.
I felt good about my goal, that is, until reading a thoughtful piece by Dr. Michelle Segar entitled The 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make with Their New Year’s Resolutions – and How to Avoid Them.
Being present is well-intentioned but, I’m discovering, may need some work to avoid the pitfalls that Dr. Segar describes.
Reason Resolutions Fail #1:
“People resolve to change their behavior inside a post-holiday bubble of overindulgence and wild hope for the future.”
My holiday break was great.
The temporary reprieve from the hustle of a jam-packed weekly routine gave me some much-needed downtime.
We traveled, went to movies, to the beach. We did just about anything other than our normal grind. There was no hurrying to pack lunches, slamming grilled cheese together for dinner, or running out the door to evening activities.
The break provided a perfect time to be together with very few distractions – ample time for me to set such a lofty goal for the upcoming year.
My ‘bubble of wild hope’ popped Tuesday morning as I made my 3 year-old’s lunch at 5 a.m. It continued to burst throughout the day. I was focused, hurried and anxious. I was successful in getting a lot accomplished at the cost of being present.
Reason Resolutions Fail #2:
“People do the same old thing without thinking critically about why those approaches and strategies didn’t work last time.”
Doing the “same old thing” is to parenting what whining about bedtime is to children between 2 and 4 – an absolute.
To be present, I’ll have to make some changes. The thought of creating short-term bumps by changing up a routine can, alone, derail a well-meaning resolution.
I need to fight the urge to be hyper-focused on obligation – that makes being present too difficult.
If I aspire to be present in 2017, I need to quit worrying as much about the unending to-do list that ushers me toward an auto-pilot existence.
Reason Resolutions Fail #3:
“People focus on losing (weight, flab) instead of gaining (well-being).”
I’ve written nothing about what being more present helps me gain.
I may have set myself up for failure by focusing too little on what I’m accomplishing and too much on what I need to give up to get there.
Reason Resolutions Fail #4:
“People see “success” as a bull’s-eye rather than as a continuum.”
The real test of a resolution, for me, is whether there are concrete steps that keep me accountable along the way. In the absence of climbing these steps, I’ll ring in 2018 by asking my wife, “What did I say I’d do better last year?”
Having one, big, distant target is both admirable and a dead-end.
If I plan to be more present in 2017, I need frequent bull’s-eyes to shoot for – a plan that keeps my resolution top-of-mind even during busy days.
Reason Resolutions Fail #5:
“People don’t expect plans to go awry.”
Parents are often great at back-up plans for their kids but not so great at “Plan B’s” for themselves.
This could be the reason I never forget the diaper bag but constantly misplace my wallet.
I know my plan will experience hiccups so I shouldn’t be surprised when they come. There are bound to be parental roadblocks and delays – illnesses, unplanned financial issues, new interests for my kids and unexpected household projects.
I’m realistic enough to know that I’ll be in auto-pilot mode occasionally – there are days when focusing on the to-do list is required. I shouldn’t let that fact derail my ultimate goal.
Success with my resolution could hinge on my ability to decipher my auto-pilot signals. If I recognize these signs, I can quickly re-focus on my next, short-term bull’s-eye and get back on track.
I’ve resolved to be present in 2017 and I plan to both succeed and fail in my pursuit.
Today, being present is listening intently as my kids describe their first day back at school.
Tomorrow, it might mean putting together a puzzle or laboriously combing out the knots in a dolls hair as I play house.
The following day, I might not have the time to do either as I rush off to work.
Some days I will fail, but more often than not, I’ll be more present. When I am, I have not simply checked the box on a successful New Year’s resolution.
I’ve made a conscious change. This change has relevance forever – not only during early January when hope springs eternal.