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The New Year is nigh, so it’s time for that annual tradition: making resolutions you may—or may not—keep.
Why do the majority of resolutions fail? Perhaps you only think about what you want to accomplish but don't give enough—or any—consideration to what may be required in order to succeed. No plan. No steps to achieve the goal. Just the big wish. In that case, it's a good bet that failure is in your future instead of success.
Mindtools.com lists "Five Golden Rules" of goal setting.
- The goals should motivate you.
- Set smart goals. They should be:
- Time bound
- Write them down.
- Make an action plan.
- Stick with it.
It takes thoughtful consideration to come up with realistic resolutions, no matter what the time of year. Don't make too many. Personally, I feel one is enough. At most, try two or three. Otherwise you run the risk of overwhelming yourself, and not giving sufficient attention to each of your resolutions. You may get so frustrated that you drop all of them because you’ve overwhelmed yourself by taking on so many.
The purpose of making resolutions is to improve yourself, which should raise your self-confidence. Making too many sets you up for failure, and contributes instead to lowered self-esteem.
It is necessary, too, to check in with your progress on a regular basis, so that if you're falling behind, you can try to figure out what's holding you back and find a work-around. That process might even push you to redouble your efforts. If you find you’re meeting the steps you've identified as necessary to achieve your goals, you'll have a great sense of accomplishment and it will spur you on to keep going.
This is good, not only for the material goals in your life, but it is excellent advice for spiritual growth as well.
Most religions tell us that our life here on Earth is just one passage our soul travels on its eternal journey. The Baha'i teachings explain that just as the baby in the womb grows physically in preparation for birth into this plane of existence—where the arms it grows can embrace the ones it loves, and are useful for making and building things, and the legs it develops will help it to move from place to place, the eyes to see and the ears to hear—so also in this life we prepare for the next life by developing virtues which build our spiritual muscles. This is extremely important because, as Abdu'l-Baha explains:
...the soul of man after death... remains in the degree of purity to which it has evolved during life in the physical body, and after it is freed from the body it remains plunged in the ocean of God's Mercy. - Paris Talks, p. 66.
Therefore, Baha'u'llah exhorts us to:
Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. - The Hidden Words, p. 11.
So instead of making resolutions once a year, or monthly or weekly, or at random, we should all take stock and determine what we've done, and how we've accomplished it—every day. Have you met your goals? Are you making your resolutions a reality? By bringing yourself to account every day, you’ll truly know the answers to those questions.
After you've prioritized the resolutions you will work on, consider them again. Are they for this life or the next? Yes, it is helpful here to exercise, stop smoking, improve your diet, etc. But here's a hint: the resolutions that will support you in the next life will also be beneficial here. The development of the inner spiritual characteristics like benevolence, patience, trustworthiness, forgiveness, generosity, love, etc., will help you to be more successful in bringing your material resolutions to fruition, as well.