Making some back-to-school new year’s goals

The Romans had it all wrong.  January is not the beginning of the new year.  The beginning of the new year is whenever the kids go back to school.  Kids know this. Teachers know this and without a doubt, anyone who has to keep kids busy all summer knows this.  

In light of the above, I’d like to wish us all a Happy New Year!  

Though I am decades out of school and my children are grown, this is still the time of year where I want to spend time making plans (who will cook for Thanksgiving this year) and goals (cleaning out that garage as soon as the hot weather passes and before the cold weather sets in).  I think I’m just too old now to change the habit of expecting to learn something new starting in September. 

Especially since my life was turned upside down, emptied of contents, and then dropped on my head this last year I am eager to learn/do/plan anything I can to avoid ever having this experience again. For all that I have to learn to do differently, I might as well be going back-to-school now.  

As a result of beginning to learn new things and reorganize my life, as my good friend Catherina Mendenhall recently remarked, “my to-do list is now longer than my life expectancy.” But a to-do list won’t make me a better person.  And I want to become a better and a smarter person in this next “school year”.  Becoming a better person requires taking stock of my actions over the last year, figuring out how to behave better, then resolving to do so.

I did it.  I wrote out an inventory of myself this last year.  All things considered, I did pretty well–no murder, no stealing, no stalking, no frivolous law suits for the sake of revenge.   How do I improve on not suing, stalking, stealing or murdering?  Maybe I don’t need any resolutions this school year?! Before I patted myself on the back too quickly, I consulted the internet.

Perhaps its no surprise that search results for resolutions and the like brought up the so-called 7 Deadly Sins, very quickly.  Add the highlights from the 10 Commandments, and it’s pretty easy to figure out what to do to become a worse person.  It took a bit more research and I eventually found the 7 Heavenly Virtues.  There’s a word that has fallen out of use–virtue.  Could I resolve to become virtuous? Do I want to be? Do I have to be religious? Celibate? 

According to psychologists, attaining something positive (a reward) is easier for humans than abstaining from a bad habit, especially if that bad habit as a secondary gain, i.e., the impossibility of abstaining from overeating when eating chocolate cake gives you a sugar high approximating nirvana.  Therefore, pursuing a virtue should be easier and more successful than avoiding a sin, especially if the virtue has a secondary gain, i.e., virtue=cash, happiness, respect.  

Posting resolutions to become more virtuous will probably guarantee that I fail in all of them.  Too late. This is my blog topic and I’m sticking with it. Please, feel free to join me in this endeavor.  Lust, greed, and wrath have had their day.  Go counter culture and embrace their opposites! Maybe we’ll start a revolution ; )

Here are my virtuous resolutions:

1)  Practice kindness–combat my inclination to judge others, gossip and feel sorry for my unmarried, poverty stricken self with thoughts and words of kindness and to stop all negative thoughts and talk in its tracks. (Corresponds to the problems of envy and jealousy.)

2)  Practice humility–be 100% responsible for my failures and shortcomings without lapsing into self-loathing, ambitiousness or perfectionism.   To stop all efforts to please or impress others or myself with my perfectionistic ideas of what it means to be ‘good enough.’  To admit to my mistakes and my faults without story-telling. (Corresponds to the mistake of pride.)

3)  Practice diligence–set limits on internet/I-Phone surfing, talking on the phone and watching television.  Stick to my daily schedule that allows for work, sleep, eating, exercise and some down time. Finish my credential course. Create a workable budget. Find work.(Corresponds to the errors of sloth, laziness.)

4)  Practice charity–be of service to others by becoming self-supporting; donating time and money to the local food bank; donating possessions that I don’t need; conserving water, electricity and fuel; living more and more simply.  (Corresponds to the problems of greed and selfishness.)

5)  Practice patience–go without things that I do not need in order to stay out of debt; dissolve all expectations of others; make decisions more slowly; pause before speaking and pass my responses through the filters of truth, kindness, and necessity; accept that life is not fair; stop whatever I’m doing whenever I begin to feel anger.  (Corresponds to the problems of anger, frustration and impatience.)

6)  Practice temperance/self-care–follow all medical recommendations for diet, exercise and alcohol consumption; assert my preferences with others rather than try and please others by being “easy going;” turn down requests, invitations that interfere with, distract from, or deplete my health, work or relationships; extract myself immediately from any person or situation which is critical, abusive, punitive, embarrassing, disrespectful or dishonest. (Corresponds to the mistake of being gluttonous, or taking too much of anything.)

7)  Practice purity–seek God first; pray, meditate and study spiritual texts daily; express gratitude daily;  keep track of blessings, healings, miracles and progress daily; be aware of and contain my desires and ambitions for financial security, career, work, house, spouse, physical luxuries, etc.  (Corresponds to the problem of lust.)

After writing all of this down it is clear that these resolutions won’t be achieved easily or all in one year.  I’m not admitting to failure before I begin, I’m just acknowledging that using virtues to set goals sets the bar really high.  But better a bar too high than no goal at all.  

What are your resolutions?  What are you going back to school for this Fall?  Write me in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.  Meanwhile, I’ve got some “studying” to do!

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