by Father Mark Goldasich
Here’s my journal entry for New Year’s Day: New year, new journal . . . same ole me! I’m a dedicated resolution maker, but an even more committed resolution breaker.
I do, though, have high hopes for 2024. My inspiration is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Gospel on Jan. 1 spoke of Mary reflecting on or pondering the events surrounding Jesus’ birth.
I realized I’m usually too busy to do much pondering, especially regarding resolutions. Honestly, I’d take out my list from the previous year and just change the date at the top. I spent no time reflecting on why these resolutions never got accomplished.
My pondering this time around was helped along by James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” book. Its subtitle is: “An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.” There are way too many helpful suggestions in the book to put into this brief column, but one word — tiny —provided me with a key — as in tiny changes.
My unsuccessful attempts in the past were the result of trying to do too much, not being specific enough and not cutting myself some slack. That last one was a real killer because the minute I didn’t do a resolution perfectly, I’d give up on it and go back to my “normal” life.
Clear proposes four laws for forming habits: Make it obvious (develop self-awareness; that is, ponder), attractive, easy and satisfying. By far, what’s motivated me the most is his “two-minute rule” which states: “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. . . . [O]nce you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.”
Here’s an example: One of my Advent practices is writing Christmas cards. Usually, though, I start too late and leave the bulk of my cards undone. This year, I tried that two-minute rule. First, I sat down — in September(!) — and made a quick list of all the elements I’d need for doing the cards.
A week or so later when a catalog came showing Christmas labels and stickers, I took two minutes to circle some I was interested in. While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and order them online right then. I went through the same process a few days later in ordering Christmas cards.
Then, in early October, I went online for a couple of minutes to see what Christmas stamps the post office had this year and ordered those. Because I also wanted to include a photo from my trip to the Holy Land with the cards, I spent two minutes picking out a few and, since I was on a roll, went ahead and ordered copies from Walmart.
Lastly, I pulled out my calendar and wrote in a start date for writing the cards, doing about five a day. My goal was 100 cards; I ended up writing 136. Mission accomplished with joy and hardly any stress.
So, if you honestly want to conquer those resolutions this year, start (very) small. Some verses from this anonymous poem should motivate you:
“I shall do much in the years to come,/But what have I done today?/I shall give out gold in princely sum,/But what did I give today?/I shall lift the heart and dry the tear,/I shall plant a hope in the place of fear,/I shall speak with words of love and cheer,/But what have I done today?”
Take two minutes right now to ponder your resolutions, and maybe another two to do something small — today — to make them come true.
Oh, don’t forget the most important resolution “law” of all: Invite God in to help!