I admit I felt pressure to make this first post of the year profound, deep and inspirational. Isn’t that what we savvy women do? Set the bar high, then lose sleep trying to get there and finally, beating ourselves up for not meeting our own high standards. At least that’s what I do. But this morning I found some inspiration of my own in the morning paper. Yep, leave it to the New York Times to be there for me just when I need a little jump-start.
Help came in the form of an opinion piece by David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northwestern University. His column was titled “The Only Way To Keep Your Resolutions.” The gist of it is that standard resolutions are hard to keep because they require so much mental energy that we eventually burn out. But what is sustainable are efforts that are born from gratitude, pride and compassion. DeSteno calls these traits, “social emotions.” These are the qualities that make us human and help us form positive relationships. It is these relationships, and the feelings that come with them that help us to feel grateful, which in turn leads us to step outside ourselves and learn new skills, try new experiences and ultimately, to have real, sustainable personal growth.
I love this theory! For me, feeling connected to others and to something bigger than myself is what I thrive on and what I seek out. I enjoy being in community with people. I am most myself when I am with others, connecting and sharing thoughts, feelings, time and emotions. In short, I am in my element. And I can report that for me, these experiences do indeed make me feel grateful and happy to help when called upon. These past couple of years, I have been called to serve in a leadership role in my faith community. It’s been a challenge and has stretched me in ways I never imagined. But if I had made resolutions on some arbitrary date on the calendar to learn the very same things, I probably wouldn’t have had the same level of success in learning and making changes.
The work I’ve done has also helped me to feel pride in myself. Pride at learning new things and accomplishing goals I’d set. And again, that feeling of satisfaction has led me to want to share my lessons with others. I have helped to mentor the next leaders of my community and look forward to continuing to offer advice and counsel when called upon.
Finally, these last couple of years has taught me humility and forgiveness. By that I mean forgiveness to myself when I fail, and humility for being human. I like to think I’ve always been a compassionate person, but in retrospect, I’ve learned that real compassion comes when we can recognize our own shortcomings, forgive ourselves and then share awareness that with others. When someone in my world falls short or disappoints me, I am better at empathizing and understanding that we are all just trying to do our best in spite of our human flaws.
So if I have anything to share about New Year’s resolutions it’s this: cultivate gratitude for what you have, feel real pride in your accomplishments big and small, and find compassion for the broken parts in all of us and in our world. And this time next year, look back on the changes that have occurred. You will be amazed. Happy New Year everyone!
About Barbara Dab
Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood. Check it out at www.nashvillepilatescompany.com. She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation. The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors. Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com. If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.
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