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Four Years at the Mount

As the New Year rings in, we asked our writers to reflect on their beliefs about New Yearís resolutions, what they think of them, and how they think they ought to be approached. If you have not yet picked yours, hopefully we can inspire you!

New Year's Resolutions

January 2016

Challenge Accepted

Elizabeth Veronis
MSN Class of 2019

So, you want to lose 18 pounds, nail down your jump shot, drop a coin in the Trevi Fountain and pay off your Christmas credit card debt Ė all by the first of the year. I am rooting for you, buddy. Thatís because I am on team New Yearís Resolutions. I know the odds are against us. I donít care. I shall shout my resolve to the rafters. I will double down when the going gets tough. Like Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.

Survive what, exactly? For most of January, that would be the parking lot at my health club or the line at the elliptical. Research has shown that just about 50 percent of us participate in the long tradition of setting goals at the New Year. The most common involve losing weight. All over America, the bloated masses will descend upon fitness clubs with a steely resolve to shed excess pounds. These newcomers are the bane of true gym rats, who resent their presence. They neednít worry. Statistically speaking, they will soon have the run of the place. In fact, by February, 25 percent of resolution-setters have given up. And it gets worse as the year goes on. In fact, just eight percent of people say they actually achieve their resolutions. But I donít think thatís any reason not to make them.

Like most athletes, I am a committed goal setter. Iíve got short-term, long-term, and downright fantastical goals. I visualize ascending the winnerís stand. I block out negative thoughts. I write down all the steps necessary to achieve even the smallest of milestones. Why do I bother? Because study after study has proven that goal setting increases both motivation and achievement.

There is another trick to dramatically improving the odds of keeping a goal: just share it with someone. Apparently, voicing our hopes and dreams help make them so. I learned that from Oprah Winfrey. She is a big fan of resolutions, who looks upon the New Year as "another chance for us to get it right.íí

The optimist in me concurs. The New Year should be viewed as a chance to wipe clean the slate, to eliminate the clutter that drags us down. Frequently, the worst form of clutter is mental. Doubt creeps in. But we have to be resilient enough and disciplined enough to power through. Sometimes that means asking for a side of kale instead of French fries. Other times that means rolling out of bed instead of rolling over.

Experts agree that it is important to set realistic, specific, and measurable resolutions. Face it. You arenít going to become fluent in Spanish just by ordering Rosetta Stone. But if you log effort every day you probably can order some pico de gallo by Cinco de Mayo. Actually, that reminds me of the importance of celebrating even small successes. High fives all around, because rewarding yourself on an incremental basis can keep you on the right track. And if you happen to stumble along the way, just start over. There is nothing easy about building new habits and backsliding should be expected.

My track record for achieving goals is probably less than 1 percent. But, just as in baseball, thatís not a bad average. I didnít start dating Harry Styles this year, but I got floor seats to a One Direction concert. I didnít win a state championship in basketball, but my team did come in second. We made the run to the finals through a combination of heart, a little luck, and the fundamentals that were beaten into us one drill at a time.

I learned the importance of finishing strong from Jim Rohn, the motivational speaker who pretty much invented the field of personal development. He was fond of saying that "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.íí Few people want to hear that, but, sadly, itís true. There is simply no substitute for practice, no secret short cut to getting better. Like jailhouse felons, we only get credit for time served. Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz summed it up this way: "Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off theyíre making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And thatís the difference.íí

That may sound a bit harsh, but Lou is ultimately right. We all fall victim to self-defeating habits. We make excuses, blame others, and give up. We postpone, self-sabotage, and whine about the fact that nothing has changed. Thatís sad. Every year, we should strive to be better than we were the year before. We all have a slightly different notion of what "betteríí means. A better version of me would be more politically involved and more grateful to the people who support me. So, I intend to register to vote and to read a daily news feed to keep current on the issues. My personal favorite is a website called www.theskimm.com. Itís slightly cynical, mercifully brief, and filled with hilarious takes on the top stories of the day.

To demonstrate my gratitude, I am going to do something my sister did last year. For one full month, she wrote a thank you note a dayĖ yes real snail mail Ė to someone who had made a difference in her life. She wound up getting lots of mail in return, from people who were touched by such a small, yet meaningful gesture.

These wonít be my only resolutions. New Yearís is just one day on the calendar and I will set and re-set goals throughout the year. I probably wonít succeed at them all. But thatís not going to stop me. I am fully on board. Itís crunch time, kids. And Iíve got just two words for all you haters: Challenge accepted.

Read other articles by Elizabeth Veronis


Mending Fences

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

It begins. The seasons have changed, the Christmas decorations have been hauled either up to the dusty, further most corners of the attic, or beginning to collect cobwebs in the basement. We have swept up the confetti and the party favors and are ready to start again. The New Year signifies the time to make your resolutions for the coming year and many people out there pledge to lose that weight or eat better or smile more. However, I am going to ask you to try to do something different. Do not worry, you do not have to physically exert yourself in any way or restrain yourself from that treat you have been thinking about all day. Instead, I would like for whoever is reading this to mend some fences in their personal lives.

Mending fences is a term, which here means, improving poor relations or reuniting with someone who had wronged you in the past. Forgiveness is difficult, but what weighs more on the soul is holding a grudge. I am not asking you to forget the insult (real or imagined), all I am asking you to let it go! Let go of the hate or the anger you hold for that person, stop blaming them for where you are in your life or what you have done since then. The past is the past and no matter what they did to you, you have the power over how you react and how you recover.

Forgiveness seems to be talked about, but seldom put into practice. This is most likely due to the fact that one has to swallow their pride and get up the nerve to say, "Iím sorry." There are even physical pitfalls to holding grudges. They can cause stress levels to rise and place you in a negative frame of mind. This means you are becoming agitated and wasting energy on someone with whom you cannot even be bothered to hold a civil conversation.

I personally find grudges tiresome and can seldom keep up the faÁade of distain and loathing. I find it easier to forgive and move on; I may not like the person anymore, but I free myself of the responsibility of going out of my way to hate them. I also know that there is enough hate in the world already without petty resentments adding to them.

As we ring in the New Year with confetti and lights and laughter, let us try to push the reset button and remember all the old acquaintances we have purposefully forgotten. New Yearís Day has always been my favorite, I feel lighter as the old year sheds its coat and it seems as if the world is shiny and new. It is time to forget about the past mistakes, pains, and heartaches and change; evolve into a better version of ourselves. We need to forgive others of their mistakes and ask for forgiveness in return.

We think about the people who are estranged from us, especially around the holidays; those friends or family that we no longer talk to because of some argument which nobody remembers. It is a shame that long-ago grievances cause families to divide and set an example for younger generations. This is most likely confusing to them because they are taught their whole life to say "sorry," but never hear it from adults.

You cannot live your life angry and sometimes you have to forgive yourself before you can begin to forgive others. Chances are, the person that you want to make amends to wants to do the same, but is unsure how to make the first step. So, the ball is in your court; it is up to you to be the bigger person and initiate the healing process. If they do not accept, then you can tell yourself you tried, and when they grow enough to forgive or accept forgiveness, then you will be waiting.

We tear up at movies or television shows when the protagonist has a moment of clarity and forgives the person you wrong them or who they have wronged. We preach to others about letting go and forgiving and we teach it to our kids. However, we fail to follow our own advice.

I am not asking for you to do this for everyone else. I am asking you to do this for you. You deserve to be free from the burden of grudges and hate. You deserve for this year to be one of hope and happiness and not bogged down by resentment and anger. This is for you; the fact that it has the potential to help another person, is a happy coincidence.

This is all wonderful, and it is easier said than done; but it is a noble task to undertake for this coming New Year. Every day we are given the chance to be a better person than who we were and have the chance to help others do the same. However impossible it seems, we take this challenge as to simply do something small every day, it is completely possible. Try that person that cut you off on your way to work, or the barista who did not get your order right. I think if you start letting go of the small things, you can begin to let go of the big ones too.

I hope this New Yearís resolution seems attainable because no one deserves to carry the weight of a grudge. My hope is that you reach out to friends and family with whom you are on bad terms and try to bury the proverbial hatchet. The world is so divided today that we cannot afford to let disagreements come between our relationships.

Finally, I wish you the happiest of New Years. I pray that it will be filled with love and happiness. Whatever misfortunes come your way, may the people in your life be there for you and help you through both good times and bad. Happy New Year!

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


Donít sleep on it

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

This morning I opened my email to scroll through the unread messages from the day before. At the top of the list was an email from my gym with the subject "Couch to CrossFit 2016." The email went into detail about this (awesome) 4-week program starting January 2, intended to be a slow and steady introduction to CrossFit. Note the start date, January 2, 2016, just in time for everybodyís New Yearís Resolutions to be put to the test! I laughed a little at this because I realized that the first day after the resolution is made, whether it be out loud at the stroke of midnight or planned and plotted weeks in advance, really is the hardest day.

The same way that every single morning I wake up to my alarm and think, do I really need to do that first thing on my to-do list that I made just twelve hours ago? Couldnít I just sleep for another hour and do that later? The answer is normally yes to the first question and no to the second, but in typical Leeanne fashion, I normally get those responses a little confused in my half-woken state and hit the snooze button. Now normally I make time later in the day and end up getting everything done even with the extra sleep, but sometimes I donít. Sometime that was the only chance I had, and I end up taking a loss on whatever it was that I was supposed to get done.

I bring this up because we all experience it Ė and if you donít, please contact me and share your secrets. I think itís natural and I think itís easy. It certainly isnít something Iím proud of, but it is life. Hereís the problem Iím beginning to see with that Ė what if that mentality starts to transfer to bigger things in my life? Sure, now it is only showing itself in the wake of too little sleep and a buzzing alarm, but that could easily start to seep into later parts of my day when I donít have sleep deprivation as an excuse. How easily could it show itself on January 2, when I have to get dressed to go the gym, have to walk to the chapel to pray, have to study for the LSAT, or in the face of any of the other New Yearís Resolutions I could make in a few short weeks.

That is why January 2nd is one of the hardest days for me. The thrill of New Yearís Eve has worn off; Iíve had my traditional pork and sauerkraut on New Yearís Day, and now Iím waking up to start real life again. Thatís going to be a hard day.

Iím sort of posing an issue without offering a real solution here. Iím noting that thatís going to be a hard mentality to overcome that day, and if it doesnít hit me right then, Iím sure it will one day in the weeks to follow. One day Iíll probably look at my resolution and think it can wait for the day, or I donít have time for it that day. Iím completely sure that my 6 a.m. mentality will show its taunting and irresponsible face at some point in the journey of my 2016 resolution. Iím answering that issue simply by saying there is no real way to prevent it. Itís going to happen. The answer, I guess at that point, is to respond exactly the opposite of the way I do most mornings. To not let that mentality get the best of my resolution, because the truth is resolutions are important.

Iíve never been a big fan of the New Yearís Resolution idea. Iím not sure why, probably because all too often they only last about a week before people start to neglect them and they are often unrealistic. On the other hand, when they work, it is beautiful. When July comes around and I see "6 months sober" posts or anything of the sort, it really hits me how incredible the simple turn of the year can be. Nothing actually changes. We donít change overnight. The world doesnít change in any way when the calendar flips from December to January and our phones start to read "2016." Iím telling you, nothing changes. But I think sometimes the flip of the calendar is exactly what some people need to make a change.

Itís really the perfect opportunity in a weird, unexplainable way. The idea that the New Year should bring out such changes is a human creation meant to provide an opportunity for people to finally set a goal, get started on a new life, make a change, or simply try a little harder. That is beautiful.

I spent years hating the idea of a New Yearís Resolution. In fact, I havenít made a real one since I was probably 13. Iíve held on to the mentality that I donít need a date to tell me to make a change. Change should be made constantly. Improvement should be a never-ending goal and a simple calendar flip means nothing in a practical sense.

Thankfully, I think Iím ready to shed that mentality. Because who cares, right? Who cares that itís a human creation and promotion. The bottom line is that it is one that sometimes works. It can actually inspire people and actually gives people the excuse theyíve been searching for to finally go for something. That should truly be embraced, not rejected because of its "impracticality."

What Iím trying to say is Iím starting to see the beauty in the idea of a New Yearís Resolution, but I also see how my 6 a.m. mentality could ruin it as early as January 2nd. So now the goal is to embrace the opportunity that the New Year brings and resist the urge to "sleep" on it as much as possible. I hope everyone joins me.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary


Seize the moment

Katie Powell
MSM Class of 2015

I wrote an article a few months ago that was about second chances. I claimed that they were miracles and explained why through a personal story. I feel that as a writer, part of my job is to challenge my readers to recognize the world in different ways and through different eyes. I apologize if you did not enjoy that approach because yet again, I have found a deep personal connection to discuss with you all on the topic of New Yearís Resolutions.

New Yearís Resolutions are just a fancy time of year for a second chanceóNew year, new you, as they say. People use it as a jumpstart to kick a bad habit, or as an excuse to wait further to start. For most people, they are simple things: going to the gym, eating healthier, reading the Bible front to back, or simply trying to be a positive person . . . things that they may start and stop or may hold on to forever. These things are not bad, but they are rarely drastic changes.

However, for some people they are. Some people take the "new you" rule very seriously and make radical changes in their lives. Some people quit their jobs and move to Florida, or buy a fancy car (somehow), or sell everything they own, move somewhere new, and literally start a new life. My late uncle was one of those people, except he did not need the New Year to tell him to do it. He lived every day like it was the first day of the New Year and he never looked back. I think he set a great example of how to live oneís life to the fullest.

My uncle believed that it was always a good time for a do-over, and he took them frequently. He was a professional body builder for many years and won several trophies and prizes through it. In fact, there is one too many pictures of him posing for competitions laying around my home for my liking.

He decided he wanted to settle down, so naturally he decided to be a police officer. I guess that was not exciting enough for him, because when he was offered a job as a prison guard, he took it and never looked back. This may be a good time to mention that on top of being a body builder, my uncle was covered head to toe in tattoos. He was very intimidating. He has been called "the enforcer."

Suddenly, probably about five years ago, he picked up and moved to Florida to start his own gym and start a "new life," and who knows what he meant by that. But, he moved and started working in a gym and lived in Florida, moved back after another two years, and started again.

A bad accident in February left him badly hurt. He was lucky to survive with his life. His leg was badly broken and he was confined to a wheelchair. The wounds did not heal, and he was in a great deal of pain for a long time. However, ever the optimist, he believed that one day all would be solved.

Last Monday he told my mom he was starting over again. He said he was going to move away, get a new phone number, and start with a clean slate.

He died within a week.

Sad as it may be, my uncle lived a life of no regrets, and taught me a valuable lesson: Life is too short to wait for the New Year to start over. Donít get me wrong; I love the idea of New Years resolutions. I think it is a great way for your mentality to match the time of year. Everything starts fresh on 1/1/16 and all the stress and problems of 2015 melt away. It feels right. However, sometimes we push things off until the next New Year to do them, claiming it as a reason, when it is simply an excuse. I have done it. Now I ask: why do we wait for special times of the year to make these changes? Why canít the reason it is a special time of year be because you have made the change, and not why?

Life is unpredictable. In western society it is fast paced and we often get caught up in our daily lives, and our New Yearís resolutions reflect that. If there are two things that I want you to take away from my uncleís story and this article, they are this: for one, if you are going to make a change, make it big and believe in your ability to accomplish it. For two, donít wait for the New Year. At any point you can decide that it is time for a change, and as my uncle told me, anything you choose to do may be the one thing that defines you. So make it count.

My uncle had big dreams, and he believed you could accomplish them any day of the week. He believed that every one deserved second chances, and he gave them freely and without prompt, expecting nothing in return. He believed very sincerely that you could always start over. You could always start fresh, sell everything you own, and move away. You could always go back home. He was a free spirit, a bit reckless, but one of the most loving and caring men you would ever meet, and yes- I still mean the body builder with the tattoos. Today is the perfect day to start over. Every single morning is a new beginning, where the clock starts over and the hours begin again- as the sun rises, you too can rise with it and answer its challenge to illuminate the world as it does.

The New Year is a wonderful time to start over, but it is not the only time. The best time to make that change is right now. You never know what the future holdsówhy waste another day planning tomorrow?

Read other articles by Katie Powell

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