Aging Well: The makings of meaningful resolutions

Tips for maintaining resolutions

• Avoid perfectionist thinking. Think positively, and avoid focusing on setbacks.

• View setbacks or mistakes as lessons for growth. Reflect on what kept you from achieving your goals, and try to make corrections.

• Be realistic, and don't make absolute resolutions. Instead of resolving to stop eating sweets completely, just try to eat fewer sweets.

• Don't keep resolutions to yourself. Share goals with friends who can provide encouragement and help keep you on track.

• Give resolutions meaning. Your goals should be things you really want to change or achieve, not things others would like to see you do.

• Take baby steps. Set attainable goals and take small steps that are likely to be met with success.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center.

As if the holidays weren't stressful enough, then comes along a new year and the pressure to make resolutions.

Some people give up making resolutions all together, refusing to conjure up goals that they're pretty sure they won't take seriously. Others worry they won't have the time or will power to achieve their resolutions and opt not to set themselves up for disappointment.

Disappointment doesn't have to be inevitable, however. By establishing a genuine connection with one's inspirations and hopes, people can head into 2009 with a renewed sense of optimism and excitement for improving their quality of life.

It's Zoe Finnoff's job to help clients identify meaningful goals and pathways in their lives. A life coach at Sacred Spiral Healing Arts Center, Finnoff is particularly busy this time of year as clients look for guidance heading into the new year.

Finnoff usually asks them to write goal "to do" lists which, besides being too long, almost always include too many ought to dos, supposed to dos and have to dos, she said.

"There's nothing in there that is really fun, inspiring or something they are actually looking forward to," Finnoff said.

Establishing inspiring goals involves spending time reflecting on what has happened in the past year and what one wants for the new year in ways that will make those objectives more powerful and present in one's life, she said.

Finnoff starts by helping clients look at eight general categories - career, education, spirituality, relationships, play/fun/adventure, finances, health and community involvement.

For each of those categories, she has clients ask themselves four questions about the past year: What was accomplished, what happened that wasn't planned, what was completed or ended and what did they learn?

Clients may see patterns or themes. For example, a person may have experienced a lot of growth and development in some categories while nothing happened in other categories. This process helps the person identify what they want to happen in each area of their life.

"What I have learned, is if we just sit down and write these things out and are in conversation with someone about it : they just happen," Finnoff said.

Finnoff, who goes through the process each year herself, explained that writing one's hopes and then sharing those with a partner, best friend, coach or group helps a person establish a relationship with their goals. She also encourages clients to make a large collage featuring pictures of things that represent and serve as reminders of what people want in their lives.

"The people that I admire, that have amazing lives, spend time writing (their hopes) up and collaging - they have boxes of collages," she said.

It's helpful to find inspirational books or books on tape relevant to one's goals as well as to connect with people (such as a fitness trainer for someone wanting to be more active) or schedule classes that hold one accountable to their aims.

Perhaps most importantly, people need to have plenty of faith, watch for and be open to inspiration and opportunities for change and spend less energy worrying or being fearful, Finnoff said.

"Everyday opportunities show up for us," she said. "Every day there is an opportunity to say 'yes.'"

In the end, the process of reflecting, sharing and being open to one's goals is about taking an active and less passive role in life while becoming conscious of what makes up one's quality of life, Finnoff said.

Tamera Manzanares can be reached at tammarie74@yahoo.com

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