For the past week or so I've been hearing about how all of my friends and family and acquaintances plan to improve their lives over the next year. There are health-related resolutions, career goals, and ideas for improving relationships. Maybe this will be the year they finally lose those last stubborn pounds. Maybe they'll finish that home renovation, or get their financial house in order. Maybe they'll get to the gym more than once every six months.
This time of year is also filled with self-reflection on the twelve months just past. What made it memorable, what lessons did we learn, are there any regrets?
I think that self-improvement is good; we should always be trying to be the best people we can be. I know that in my own life I need to make a stronger commitment to health and fitness. As much as I love candy, I probably don't need to eat quite so much of it, and I should spend more time active, less time on the couch.
But is that how I'll measure the success of a year? Of my life? Unlikely. And I don't know many people who would, although we certainly spend a lot of time talking about how our resolutions will make us better people living more fulfilling lives.
I've spent the time between Christmas and New Year's in the house I grew up in, visiting with family. I realized last night that there are pictures on the wall where my Mom is the same age that I am now. This means, of course, that the experiences that my kids are having now aren't unlike my memories from visiting my grandparents when I was their age. It's reinforced to me - yet again - of what matters when one really gets down to it, and what resolutions are actually worth making.
This point was driven home by a letter that my dad showed us. It was written in 1977 by a man, Peter, who spent time on my grandparents' farm on the Canadian prairie in the years leading up the Depression. He had recently arrived from Germany; my grandparents were ethnic Germans who'd arrived from Russia just twenty years earlier. He had no one and they took him in. At the time, my grandma was not yet thirty and had six young children. When Peter saw that his presence was taking away from the precious resources needed for the family to survive on the farm, he made the difficult decision to leave.
This was way before the internet - even telephones - made international communication as easy as calling down the street. Peter didn't know where he would end up (New York City, as it turned out). The letter was addressed to The Postmaster at Primate, SK, the population of which was never more than 200 people. The Postmistress opened up the letter and took it to my dad, saying, "I think this belongs to your family."
The letter was written by its 73-year-old author because "Let it be said, that at this juncture of a man's life, one is apt to let his thoughts wander back through the past because there is little else of consequence, now that life has come around almost full circle."
He felt the need to contact "those good and wonderful people", "A close-knit family which dispensed love and kindness ever so generously not only within that family, but also to friends, neighbors and even strangers as well."
As my dad said, It's one thing to know certain things to be true from your own experience within a family, but to hear it from someone outside the circle, so-to-speak, is particularly gratifying. Within two weeks of my dad getting that letter, Peter was on his way from New York to our small prairie town. Even with as little as they had, my grandparents made a difference in the life of this man. It is by grace that my Grandma was alive when that letter arrived and for Peter's visit to know just how much.
So this year I might get in shape. Maybe I'll finally hang the pictures currently leaning against the wall, but to me that's not what's really important. While I don't expect to take in any strangers, I think that there are ways to live with the same spirit of generosity that my grandparents embodied for that young man. I can be the same kind of parent as my Mom was in that picture on our wall and hope that my kids have the same kind of fond memories of being with their grandparents as I do.
My New Year's resolution is to live a life that has a positive answer to this question:
How will my presence be remembered by those I've had the good fortune to know?
And the circle will continue.
By June 2013, I will: --Back squat 405 pounds --Dead lift 500 pounds --Shoulder press 200 pounds --Squat clean 275 pounds --Run sub-seven-minute mile -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/realchrispowell">Chris Powell</a>, author of</em> Choose To Lose: The 7-Day Carb Cycle Solution, and trainer on "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" <strong>Follow Chris Powell on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/RealChrisPowell">@RealChrisPowell</a>
This year I want to brush up on my piano skills. One of my favorite pastimes is singing carols with my family on Christmas Eve, so I'm going to make the time to practice the piano throughout the year to become proficient and surprise my family next Christmas. -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/droz">Dr. Oz</a>, author of</em> You Being Beautiful <strong>Follow Dr. Oz on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/DrOz">@DrOz</a>
Meditate daily (if only for five minutes) whether I am traveling or at home. And to continue to follow my intuition across all aspects of my life: business, personal and family. -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/TaraStilesLiving">Tara Stiles</a>, author of</em> Yoga Cures: Simple Routines To Conquer More Than 50 Common Ailments And Live Pain-Free <strong>Follow Tara Stiles on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/TaraStiles">@TaraStiles</a>
My New Year's resolution is to add more veggies and fruits twice a day to get an array of antioxidants into my body more consistently. -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/TraceyMallettFitness?fref=ts">Tracey Mallett</a>, creator of Tracey Mallett's FuseDance Cardio Melt</em> <strong>Follow Tracey Mallett on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/BootyBarre">@TraceyMallett</a>
Focus on healthy travel for myself and others. This can be a real problem for those of us who leave our routines at home, but want to maintain our exercise and healthy eating choices while on the road. I will be devoting much more time to sharing research and tips via social media to help us all stay healthy and fit while we travel. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cheryl-forberg-rd/">Cheryl Forberg</a>, R.D., author of</em> Flavor First: Cut Calories And Boost Flavor With 75 Delicious, All-Natural Recipes<em>, and the nutritionist for NBC's "The Biggest Loser"</em> <strong>Follow Cheryl Foreberg on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/CherylForbergRD">@CherylForbergRD</a>
Become more creative with spices and seasonings in the kitchen -- bring on the curries, stir fries and marinades! Try out new exercise classes and sports -- and get my kids to tag along with me! And master a healthy version of peanut M&Ms! (Long shot, I know, but I’m very determined and resourceful). -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/JoyLBauer">Joy Bauer</a>, author of</em> Joy Bauer's Food Cures: Eat Right To Get Healthier, Look Younger, And Add Years To Your Life <strong>Follow Joy Bauer on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/joybauer">@joybauer</a>
In 2013... Beam and be on your own team. In this coming year I will continue to take good care of me for all the world to see. I will be able to cope because I have hope. I will always remind myself that overeating is defeating. I will tell myself to not rust but to lust for health. And I will remember to tone what I own And sweat 'til I'm wet. And everyone has to know- You don't get a choice on how you are going to die, But you do get a choice on how you are going to live. -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/TheWeightSaint">Richard Simmons</a>, creator of Richard Simmons: Boogie Down The Pounds</em> <strong>Follow Richard Simmons on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/TheWeightSaint">@TheWeightSaint</a>
I tend to think of "New Year's resolutions" as "New Year's intentions" and they usually have to do with cultivating a more peaceful inner life; I often bring in the new year with a meditation (that is, quite honestly, if I don't fall asleep by midnight, which is more often the case.) More faith, less fear More mindfulness, less busyness More compassion, less judgment More allowing, less forcing More calm, less chaos More stillness, less distraction More peace, less discord More forgiveness, less resentment More trust, less doubt More caring, less apathy More hope, less despair More love, more fun, more joy -- <em>HuffPost Wellness Editor, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-patricia-fitzgerald/">Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald</a>, author of</em> The Detox Solution: The Missing Link To Radiant Health, Abundant Energy, Ideal Weight, And Peace Of Mind <strong>Follow Patricia Fitzgerald on Twitter:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/DrPatriciaFitz">@DrPatriciaFitz</a>
Eat more real food, less food-like substances. More health care, less disease care. -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frank-Lipman-MD/60526069384">Frank Lipman</a> M.D., author of</em> Revive: Stop Feeling Spent And Start Living Again <strong>Follow Frank Lipman on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/DrFrankLipman">@DrFrankLipman</a>
My New Year's health resolution is to keep doing what I'm doing -- good sleep, daily exercise, daily meditation. -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/DeepakChopraCommunity?fref=ts">Deepak Chopra</a>, author of</em> God: A Story Of Revelation <strong>Follow Deepak Chopra on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/DeepakChopra">@DeepakChopra</a>
I resolve to cook a little more at home. I will keep my pantry and fridge stocked so I don't suddenly find myself famished with nothing healthy to eat. I'll freeze lots of leftovers so I can easily reheat them at a moment's notice. I know with this I'll eat out less, enjoy more nutritious food, and save money! -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/kathyfreston.veganist?fref=ts">Kathy Freston</a>, author of </em> Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change The World <strong>Follow Kathy Freston on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/kathyfreston">@kathyfreston</a>
Ten minutes of yoga every morning, to get my blood pumping and my body limber and aligned. Ten minutes of cleaning every morning, to get my home in order and bring my day into balance. One raw meal or snack every day, which will basically mean one major salad dish or juice to flood my body with alkalizing minerals, nutrients and enzymes. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daphne-oz">Daphne Oz</a>, author of</em> The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works <strong>Follow Daphne Oz on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/DaphneOz">@DaphneOz</a>
Love more, fear less. Float more, steer less. Show up. Be present. Tell the truth without blame or judgement. Be open to the outcome. Spend five minutes every day in awareness of the nature of mind. Practice loving kindness and compassion in every act and every word. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/">Mark Hyman, M.D.,</a> author of</em> The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program For Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, And Feeling Great Now! <strong>Follow Mark Hyman on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/markhymanmd">@markhymanmd</a>
Stop fixating on the details of diet and health at the expense of losing sight of the big picture, namely, to eat whole plant-based foods while using little or no added fat, salt, sugar. Remember, taste preferences will change. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/t-colin-campbell">T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.</a>, author of</em> Whole: Rethiking The Science Of Nutrition in 2013 <strong>Follow T. Colin Campbell on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/TColinCampbell">@TColinCampbell</a>
First off, I decided to stop favoring my stronger, more stable left leg. I favor it too much, and I know this creates an imbalance that prevents me from performing better athletically. Looks like I'll be putting the right foot forward in 2013. Second, I've been just okay at handstands and it's time to step it upside-down. I've decided to get inverted six times a day until I can hold a clean handstand for one minute. The plan is to hold three handstands in the morning for as long as I can and three at night. -- <em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/BeachBodyTony">Tony Horton</a>, author of</em> Bring It!: The Revolutionary Fitness Plan For All Levels That Burns Fat, Builds Muscle, And Shred Inches <strong>Follow Tony Horton on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/Tony_Horton">@Tony_Horton</a>
The relatively painless act of keeping a regular schedule. That’s right: just try to <strong>maintain a predictable schedule</strong> on a daily basis. This entails the following: --Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, weekends included. --Eating at roughly the same times throughout the day, snacks included. --Taking any prescribed medications at the same time every day. --Exercising (if you do) at roughly the same time every day. As a doctor, of course I'd love for you to change your habits for the better and reduce your risks for illness. We all know the benefits of exercise and the bane of smoking. We all know that eating fast food won't fix the fat around our waistlines. But I'm also a realist, which is why I suggest you work your way to a new you just by making a single initial goal of keeping a regular schedule. Simple as that. Watch -- and feel -- what happens. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-b-agus-md/">David Agus</a> M.D., author of</em> The End of Illness <strong>Follow David Agus on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/DavidAgus">@DavidAgus</a>
My resolution for the new year is to do a better job of making recreation a priority. Partly, this is selfish and partly it's not. Some recreation is really for me. I love riding and pledge to make time in the saddle a priority in the new year. Nothing is better for my mental health! But I also pledge to be more conscious of recreational "down time" with my wife and kids -- all too easily neglected for the sake of ambition. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/">David Katz</a> M.D., author of</em> Epidemiology, Biostatistics And Preventive Medicine <strong>Follow David Katz on Twitter:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/DrDavidKatz">@DrDavidKatz</a>
Dedicate some time each night for meditation and relaxation. While I try to do this when I can, this year I want to make this a priority in my life. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/">Michael Breus, Ph.D.</a>, author of</em> The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep <strong>Follow Michael Breus on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/thesleepdoctor">@thesleepdoctor</a>
I'll be focusing on undoing the damage of sitting. Sitting is death. I was on book deadline for 2012 and it caused all sorts of hip and back issues, which led to other issues. I'll be getting a proper standing (or treadmill) desk, using foam rollers, doing more squats in workouts, and getting outside as much as possible. Humans aren't designed to sit 24/7. Life in captivity isn't much of a life at all, so 2013 will be my year of movement. -- <em><a href="http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2012/07/12/how-to-lose-100-pounds/).">Tim Ferriss</a>, author of</em> The Four Hour Body and The Four Hour Chef <strong>Follow Tim Ferriss on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/tferriss">@tferriss</a>
My resolution for the new year is to spread the word on the importance of taking <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/12/vitamin-d-foods-natural-sources_n_1958995.html">vitamin D</a> every day, and to help the world understand that Integrative Medicine can improve their health and well-being. I want to move our disease-care system to a true Health-Care System. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-soram-khalsa/">Soram Khalsa</a>, M.D., author of</em> The Vitamin D Revolution: How the Power Of This Amazing Vitamin Can Change Your Life <strong>Follow Soram Khalsa on Twitter</strong>: <a href="https://twitter.com/DrSoram">@DrSoram</a>
Follow Erin Chrusch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/erinchrusch