From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Thanksgiving -- Get a head start on New Year's resolutions
The month of
Thanksgiving reminds us to pause and be thankful. Yet for many, this has been a
difficult year. We may have lost loved ones, we may have lost jobs, we may have
lost face in our community, and these losses may feel irreconcilable.
Fortunately, one of the miracles of life is that over time, human beings have
the remarkable ability to recover from loss, regain their sense of optimism, and
move forward. While it helps to be thankful for life’s resilience, it is also
wise to consider making a few important changes. To improve your life and your
relationships, I recommend getting a head start on some New Year’s Resolutions.
Here are a few suggestions.
- The Resolution not to
tell lies. There are few things worse than concealing the truth. Whether
the lies that we tell are lies of omission or lies of commission, withholding
the truth from loved ones drives a wedge in relationships. It is painful to
conceal information from those we care about and extra effort is required in
order to work around the truth to avoid certain topics. The more energy it
takes to cover up our lies, the easier it becomes to simply not talk at all.
When this happens, even the closest of relationships will eventually
deteriorate due to the lack of open communication, leaving behind a legacy of
guilt and deception.
- The Resolution not to be
critical. In contrast to the Resolution not to tell lies, it is not
always necessary to share our opinions. People often mistake their own
opinions for statements of fact. The problem is that sharing our opinions
makes us feel smart and expressing our criticisms makes us feel brilliant. But
our opinions and especially our criticisms are often not constructive. In
contrast to the truth, it is often smarter to withhold negative thoughts. When
we casually criticize the efforts of others, we may underestimate the damage
that is caused. Careless words can cut like knives and undermine the efforts
of those around us. Negativity can rob us of positive experiences, it may
diminish good intentions, and cause others to lose face. Like sticking a pin
in someone else’s balloon, being critical of others may make you feel better
temporarily, but it will not make you a better person.
- The Resolution to seek
balance. The quality of our lives is closely linked to our state of
balance. As human beings, personal balance works much like a pendulum that
swings back and forth in a continuous motion. We alternate between work and
play, we alternate between awake and asleep, and we alternate between being
with others and being alone. Throughout the day, we breathe in and we breathe
out and it is this continuous state of movement that allows us to smoothly
meet our needs. Problems arise when we try to violate the movement of the
pendulum through excess or deprivation. While it is appealing to try to beat
the system and do things our own way, too much or too little of anything can
throw off our natural balance. When we fail to take care of ourselves, the
resulting state of imbalance is costly both to ourselves and to others who
must then take care of us.
- The resolution to be
self-confident. It is wrong to hurt others and it is wrong to hurt
ourselves. Just as it is hurtful to criticize others, it is hurtful when we
criticize ourselves. While it is impossible for any one of us to lead perfect
lives, life is full of some very perfect moments and precious experiences.
Self-confidence grows when we recognize our successes and acknowledge our
improvements; self-hatred grows when we count up our short-comings and dwell
on our failures. Self-confidence and self-esteem are gifts which only we can
give to ourselves. When we rely on others to make us feel good and worthwhile,
we look to them for constant praise and approval. A less costly and less
demanding approach is to encourage and positively motivate our selves. In
spite of what you may have learned in childhood, self-confidence will not make
you conceited. It may however make you less emotionally needy.
Realistically speaking, some
aspects of life are clearly beyond our control, but many other aspects of our
lives are within our control. We can be grateful that not all of life’s burdens
are resting upon our shoulders and we can be thankful for opportunities to
correct our mistakes when they are made. We can be thankful for our ability to
make our own choices most of the time, and thankful that we are able to meet
most of our own needs. Accepting that none of us is perfect makes it easier to
forgive others and easier to forgive ourselves when we fail to meet our own
expectations. Thanksgiving and other holidays which will follow during the
coming months are excellent opportunities to repair injured relationships and
rebuild trust. When we let go of old hostilities, we unburden ourselves. By
letting go of old pain, even hearts that have been broken can develop a new
lease on life.
©Copyright, 2006, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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