I like the start of each New Year.
I like to think each January gives me a clean slate.
Maybe that means starting over or just putting a patch on a little piece of life that's rough around the edges.
My January introspection could lead me to change the course of some part of my life.
Always, the start of a New Year means doing some fine tuning of my own personal inventory.
This is the time of year I think seriously about the pattern of my life. I can't stop time from slipping by. But I can work to make the most of the time I have. So each January I think about how I spend my time and what personality traits I want to change.
No, don't say I'm only talking about easily-broken New Year's Resolutions. It's more than that.
For me, every January is like arriving at a stop sign and being able to determine what direction to drive. On this road trip we call life, as long as I am able to steer, I want to be a good driver.
Last January, I decided I was wasting a lot of my time and effort by trying to effect change in those I care about. My intentions were good but I realized I set myself up for frustration by thinking I could actually change anyone.
All year I've been repeating this mantra: I can't change anyone but myself. It must not have worked because I still have to keep trying.
For instance, a very close friend of mine is in serious financial jeopardy. After using up the last of her pension funds, she lives only on social security. Way before the end of the month she is out of money. That means she doesn't even have money for food.
I step in, of course, and cook meals for her or give her food. But I believe it's better to teach someone to fish than it is to give them a fish. So I try to give her advice so she can do a better job of making her money stretch.
I point out how many meals she can make with a small ham instead of the expensive lunchmeat she buys. I show her how to plan her meals around what's on special at the supermarket.
But I make the serious mistake of trying to change her. I want her to be thrifty so she isn't in so much financial peril. But I learned it's impossible to change someone's lifelong habits.
I drive my friend to the library and point out all the books she can read for free. Instead, she keeps buying books at Wal-Mart. "It was only $14," she says, ignoring the fact that $14 will buy meat for a few meals.
That's when I have to hold my tongue and keep reminding myself the only person I can change is myself.
My father used to quote the old pig adage: "Never try to teach a pig to sing. All you do is waste your time and annoy the pig."
I try to remember that saying when I'm tempted to try to change a trait in someone I love.
If I don't care deeply about someone, what they do doesn't concern me. But no matter how much you love a person, you have no power – and no right – to try to change them.
But if I really believe this, why don't I remember it more often?
Since last year I've gotten a bit better in remembering the only person I can change is myself. But I still have a long way to go.
So this year I am working at accepting people as they are – not as I wish they could be.
There's another old adage that says: What is, is.
I'm working hard this year to learn to accept what is to accept it without trying to change it. I think that's harder for most of us than we are willing to admit.
This year, the change I will try to bring about is in me. I have enough to work on in myself.
I want to stop SAYING I only want to eat healthy food while I reach for chocolate peanut butter wafers after dinner.
I want to learn to accept portion control. I don't need to give up all my favorite foods. I just need to stop reaching for more.
Experts tell us self-improvement resolutions are the hardest to keep. I don't need experts to tell me that.
It's hard to keep my resolution to do physical exercise everyday. When it's dark and cold outside, I want to curl up with a good book, not put on my sneakers and go to the gym.
I have managed to keep my resolution about making better use of my nighttime hours. It took a bit of self-analysis to figure out the reason I don't get as much done as I want to each day is because I quit working too early.
When the sun goes down, my motivation goes down with it. I've gotten a little bit better at getting more done by working at night. But I still have a long way to go.
I have a lot of self improvement projects waiting to be fulfilled. And since the only person I can change is myself, I think I'll get to work.
Now, if only I can remember not to try to effect change in someone else.