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Believing in the power of a New Year

Published January 08. 2011 09:00AM

In bowling, when you just can't seem to get the ball to go where you want it to, some frustrated bowlers resort to drawing a fence on the score sheet.

It's a way of saying you're putting an end to low scores and the rest of the game will go better.

I've resorted to that a few times and know for a fact that it doesn't improve your bowling. Only better technique can do that. But at least it signals the intention to pay more attention to technique.

Having clear intentions is the first part of any improvement. And this is the time of year when many of us have clear intentions about changes we want to make.

We call it New Year's resolutions.

I hesitate to use that term because New Year's resolutions get a bad rap. Some believe the intentions we promise to keep disappear as fast as a snowman on a sunny day. But I believe in the power of a New Year and the change that can come with it.

A New Year is a fresh start. It can be an important time of reflection. We can use it to take a careful look at how we are going through life.

Few would drive a car endlessly without thought to direction or destination. But if we don't use the start of a New Year as a stop sign, that's exactly how we travel though life.

Just for fun, each year I usually ask people if they made any New Year's resolutions. This year, more than ever, I'm hearing people say they have made some serious resolutions.

Some scoff at the idea, saying if they wanted to make any kind of change in life, they wouldn't have to wait until New Year's to do it. They could embark on change any time of year.

They could. But few do.

A New Year is a fresh chance at our own self- improvement project.

According to national surveys as well as my own informal queries, the number one New Year's self improvement goal is to lose weight.

This is the time when gyms are most crowded and weight loss classes are filled with determined dieters.

A Quicken poll that resulted in a list of America's top New Year's resolutions revealed that most of us want the same thing. We want to lose weight, get more physically active and lead a healthier lifestyle.

But most of all, we want to slow down and enjoy life more. Spending more time with family and friends was on top of the resolution list for 50 percent of us.

I'm a big believer in New Year's resolutions and I made several of them this year. Heading my list was my intention to remember every day that life is short. I need to make the most of each day.

If we truly believe that life is short, we wouldn't stay mindlessly busy. We would put meaningful purpose in each day.

If we believed we didn't have forever we would never waste a day by spending it being angry or feeling vengeful.

If we believe life is short, we would have a "longer fuse." We would be gentler with the world.

We wouldn't cut friends and relatives out of our lives because of real or imagined slights. Instead, we would work to mend family fences and heal hearts.

If we believe life is short, we would keep in mind what is important and what is "small stuff" not worth worrying about.

If we remember that life is short, we would stop putting off important things for the tomorrow that might never come. We would make sure we have an up-to-date will and some sort of estate plan. It's amazing how many people never get around to doing that.

A lawyer friend of mine who drew up hundreds of wills for his clients never got around to updating his own legal affairs. Young and healthy, he thought he could do it "someday." When he died in a private plane crash, his ex-wife was still his named beneficiary and the legal battles were ugly and lengthy.

We all use the expression, "life is short." But if we really believed that, we would get around to doing what is important.

We would spend more time with family and loved ones, telling them every day in so many ways how special they are to us.

If we comprehend how short a lease we are given in this adventure called life, would we waste one night sitting in front of a TV watching mindless shows?

Replacing television with more worthwhile activities is a small part of my plan not to waste any of the time I am given.

I believe that when one combines good intentions with a specific plan, we can succeed in a goal.

I saw a sign at Christmas that said, "I believe."

I do believe.

I believe, too, in the power that can come in a new year and a new decade.

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