Universal Ethics > Thought of the Month > January 2019

Resolutions for the new year: Another chance to be your ideal self!

The sand timer in the picture represents the passage of time. Time stops for nobody. The circumstances you are in today may be happy or sad, or some mix, but inevitably your life will change. So it is wise to enjoy the joyful opportunities in your life now, while you have them, and to plan for other stages of your life that will have their own opportunities and challenges.

At the start of the new year, people are reminded to "make resolutions" for improvement during the year. Typically each person will have at least one thing that they would wish to improve about themselves.

Right from birth, people begin forming their concept of their "ideal self." As children, we pick role models from people we know in our family, friends, school, and other places, as well as from stories in books, videos, or other media. Also we form judgements of the kind of person we like, based on how others treat us. The person each of us would "wish to be" is often a hybrid of other people, real or imagined, based on what we learn from this experience.

Children might wish to be a super hero that is admired by everyone, but real people aren't born with unlimited strength, the ability to fly, or to be invulernable. However, people can control whether they are kind, helpful, knowledgeable, perseverent, etc. People can choose their own behaviors and habits. One can choose an "ideal self" that is possible to achieve.

Typically a person will have some gaps between their ideal self and their real self. Depending on the person, the gaps might be such things as: being too critical of other people rather than offering constructive help; having an unhealthy or risky habit such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs for non-medical purposes; having a diet that leads to an overweight condition; etc

If you are a fairly happy person and you have taken effort to improve yourself over your life, perhaps nothing springs to mind immediately about how you might yet improve. However, if you take some time each week to contemplate your activities over the week, challenges you have faced, etc., you may be able to identify some things you didn't do quite as well as you might have. There may indeed be a gap between your ideal self and your real self, that could be causing you some frustration or unhappiness.

Removing the gap often requires changing a pattern of behavior. Typically the solution is not just making a resolution; it requires a change of habit, which in turn requires perseverence.

When is the best time to begin that change? Is New Years' day the best time? What if it is already past January 1 as you are reading this?

The answer is that the best time is now, regardless of what day that may be! Is is easy to procrastinate to tomorrow, to say that you will change then. But when tomorrow comes, how is that different than today? If today you think it makes sense to wait a day, likewise when tomorrow arives you will make that same decision. The day after will yield the same result, and the day after that... If that continues you would never become the person you want to be. So now is the time to break that cycle!

Changing habits is often difficult. It seems almost inevitable that at times a person will slip back to their old way of behaving. There are many reasons why it can be difficult to change a habit and if you want an explanation, click here.

Perhaps there is some particular habit you wish to change, but you haven't had success in "making it stick." But this happens to other people too, and yet many succeed eventually. If you understand the reasons why habit change is difficult, and in particular if you give some thought to why it has been difficult for you, then you can formulate a strategy to overcome the barriers. For some tips on changing habits, click here.

If in past you didn't quite do things as you had wished, that is not necessarily a predictor of future results, because you have the power to decide, and moreover you can decide to follow a different strategy next time. So: Never give up on being the person you wish to be!

One of the most important things you can do to change habits, is to record your goals and track your progress. That is one part of an 8 step Pathways method for bringing happiness to yourself and your world. As a tool to help you with that, I also offer you a free gift: the Pathways Planner for windows, which provides an easy way to record goals, schedule activities, plan your finances, and track progress against goals.

As we look to the future, most of us hope for progress that brings a better world to each new generation. A better world is one with peace instead of war, discovery instead of ignorance, etc. To make that happen, the better world needs better people. Each person must cast their vote for the better world by their own actions, and to vote consistently by adopting good habits.

- Arthur de Leyssac, January 2019.

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