Happy New Year Continued: A Word on New Year Resolutions   Leave a comment

Introduction

Yesterday was the New Year and I want to Wish Everyone a Happy New Year! After the partying and celebration is over however, we are confronted with that old traditional New Years Resolution! We come armed with great resolve to do something more or different than what we have done the previous year. In certain respects a resolution is like a mini-repentance, a desire to turn away from one thing to go toward something else that we believe would be better for us. As we know however, there are always stories of people who hold strong for a couple of weeks to a month and then somehow, someway they just stop and revert back to that which they thought was bad for them. Well today I want to talk about resolution ideas that one could consider as well as the factors that can get us motivated as well as stages toward realizing our goals. I will also pepper this post with my own notions and experiences as well as videos and pictures.

Resolution Ideas to Consider

This is a blog designed to reconcile Christianity with the rest, as my motto above goes. So as you can imagine the resolutions I am proposing will have some kind of Christian undertone, yet at the same time resolutions that understand we live in the world, so I am not going to recommend for example that people develop an elaborate prayer life while dealing with the intricacies of day-to-day living in the world [although if one can develop such an elaborate and successful prayer life then you are blessed]. The resolution I propose are in no particular order of importance.

The First Resolution I would recommend comes from the Self-Improvement Program I wrote at the outset of my blog. It involved the Self-improvement of Body, Mind, and Spirit. The Self-Improvement Program that I designed is however, more of an unconscious and spontaneous program for improvement in ones life. Each particular aspect however is practiced and dedicated in a more conscious manner, the overall progress depends largely upon ones own level of dedication toward each aspect. The Self-Improvement Program seeks transcendence and health of ones current situations in life. The motto of this particular resolution has Christs own words added to it, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

What do I mean by this? To best illustrate what I mean I will tell you an experience I had in my first semester in college. I was in my math class, and we were going to have a test, when the math professor said, “Always Aim High! So even if you don’t get to that ideal high point, you will be more likely to be in the neighborhood of that ideal high point.” Of course, in his case he was speaking always to work toward getting that 100 on the test, since most of us are bound to encounter difficulty along the way it was made very clear that one could still get a 90 for trying so hard. He said this as he was talking about people focusing on “just barely passing” to which he basically said, “those who focus on just barely passing, and fulfilling the minimum requirements are more likely to fail.” How so? Simple, your ideal is just passing by the skin of your teeth, so when you encounter difficulty you will be even more likely to never even reach that minimalistic ideal.

How then does this apply here? Seek first God, Seek First the Kingdom, Seek God in Your Life, to Love Him and to Know Him, in doing this you will move your body, you will activate your mind, and you will be animated and made wise by the spirit. In my own experience, when I was younger I was interested in animals, diseases, and the weather and that was it but as I got older, I can speak very profoundly to how my desire to know God, lead to my desire to Learn; to learn more about theology, philosophy, psychology, biology, economics, politics, physics, history among other humanities and sciences. I did not want to learn about these things for their own sake, I spontaneously picked up the desire to know about these things because I wanted to know God. I believe that this mode of improvement and mental transformation can be applied to the body as well as the spirit.

Therefore, as an example for you now, let us use the typical popular New Years Resolution, to get back in shape, in particular to lose weight. This is good to lose excess weight, however, people tend to fail at this because their resolution is something so small and limited to just one thing, it is essentially that minimalistic ideal: “If I just pass the test then I would be happy.” Now becomes, “If I just lost weight then I would be happy.” I say, go further then losing weight, seek God and His Kingdom. How would this help? Consider the 7 Deadly Sins [or Missing The Mark], in this case it is Gluttony, a mental focus on obsessive focus on necessities. There are whole prescriptions of what the Glutton must do in order to control their appetite and essentially reach their real goal of reaching a moderate or modest weight. To give more credence to this position, I have St. John Chrysostom’s Homily on Matthew to give us additional commentary on Matthew 6:33 when he writes,

“Accordingly, He does not bid us so much as ask for them, but while we ask for other things, to have confidence, as though these also were added to those. Seek then the things to come, and you will receive the things present also; seek not the things that are seen, and you shall surely attain unto them… Thus, to this end, says He, do I bid you not seek, not that you may not receive, but that you may receive plentifully; that you may receive in the fashion that becomes you, with the profit which you ought to have; that you may not, by taking thought, and distracting yourself in anxiety about these, render yourself unworthy both of these, and of the things spiritual; that you may not undergo unnecessary distress, and again fall away from that which is set before you.” – Homily #22 on The Gospel of Matthew

It is a good time to remind people now that, this Self-Improvement Program is not successful solely by our will, but by God’s Cooperation with this program, insofar as God Wills it. But we live in the world, there are tons of reasons we could give for wanting to do this, some better then others, but it is not enough simply to have a negation of what we do not want, we must have a reinforcement of what we do want. In this specific goal that could be found in the Self-Improvement Program then we want God and we want a Healthy Body, a fit body proper to being a temple of His Presence, in a word we need to go all the way, the highest ideal if we are to realize our goals. I have a link here from Fr. Barron again discussing why we must pursue excellence in the Spiritual Life but I would argue that not only the Spiritual Christian Life but in all aspects of living to which the Spiritual Life is given Primacy over the rest:

As an add-on to this video, I would say that, I believe that we never try to think about achieving the heights because of cynicism or just out of a child-like desire to not get hurt, to not feel sad, pain, and disappointment. So I say in acknowledging our weakness and imperfection, we still should try to strive to be inspired and reach the heights of our goals and maybe even beyond. I also have another recommendation which comes from the video below and which I agree with because I know it is for me difficult to attain at times, yet like all goals it just shows its worth. In this case I present you with the Second Resolution, which by this I am speaking of a profound Spiritual Resolution:

One part of this video he speaks of “Forgiving an Enemy” as a New Years Resolution. To me that enemy being forgiven does not have to necessarily be a person proper, but even any entity who you dislike as well. In our society today where our media loves conflict and power struggles, and seeks to manipulate people through misunderstandings I say “Forgive an Enemy” because, the odds are if you go deep enough and spend a lot of time understanding the other side you will see that conflict is not cut and dry; black and white; good and evil but more complex then that. Forgiveness is an ongoing process, not something once at a particular point in time and space. Therefore, I submit to the reader why not Forgive the Catholic Church? By forgiving the Catholic Church, we acknowledge that the Catholic Church is not 100% evil and that despite its corruptions, failings, scandals throughout the centuries [for which there is and will be justice done] it has also contributed greatly to our society and should still be viewed as our friend. By Forgiving we Transcend the dualistic Good-Evil Paradigm of a lying and manipulative corporate media, who have their own agenda.

Motivational Factors and Stages

So according to Motivational Psychology, there are typically 5 theories that explain how we unlock motivational energy but I will see these Theories more so as Factors of an integral whole, they are as follows: (1) Instinctual (2) Incentive (3) Drive (4) Arousal (5) Humanistic. For our purposes we will explore more in-depth the last 4, because most psychologist no longer hold the Instinctual View of Human Motivation.

The First Motivational Factor is Incentive, a desire to do something for external reward or recognition. The Second Motivational Factor is Drive, which is a desire to do something from within, in one respect this can be Instincts proper, we have an instinctual desire eat food when we are hungry for example. However, a drive originates from within us in a more personal way. The Third Motivational Factor is Arousal, we seek to arrive at an optimum level of arousal, not too excited but not unexcited either. Finally there is the Humanistic Factor, the cognitive and conscious reasons to perform do something, we get this notion from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Let us be aware that there is really only 1 or at best 3 of the 4 factors we are most in control of and that is the certainly the Humanistic Factor of rational cognitions because they stem from our conscious mind, whereas the Incentive Factor is somewhat in our control. How so? Incentives are rewards and punishments, these are informed largely by the lifestyle choice you currently live in and want to live in. At least 1 of the 4 forces are certainly outside our control. That factor is Drive, this factor is largely unconscious, the desire to eat, the desire to have sex, the desire to drink, etc. We do not have absolute control over, they are movements in our psyche, but just because we do not have full control over the origins does not mean we do not have full control over where we can direct their energy. The other factor is Arousal, which is custom to our own bodily, mental, and spiritual abilities to handle the world around us, this factor we could have potentially within our control, largely because we can train ourselves to be more tolerant/unaffected by different stressors in our lives.

So as an example, lets continue the example above of not merely losing weight but getting fit in the proper context of knowing God. Lets start with the least controllable factors going to the most controllable factors:

The Unconscious Drive Factor to eat and drink must be addressed, the unconscious might have been trained to accept unhealthy foods as pleasurable foods, so we begin the work to recondition ourselves to see healthy meals as pleasurable and the occasional sweet treat as a bonus. By the Unconscious Drive you let that energy flow toward your conscious desire to come up with a better dieting plan.

The Arousal Factor, is something that must be worked on as well but incrementally. Keep in mind an overweight person is a person with a slower metabolism, to suddenly shock your body into a high arousal situation is unhealthy and will lead to discouragement. So incrementally adjust your ability to handle the stress around you, as you begin to progressively trim down.

The Incentive Factor, is something that must be addressed, you need to ask yourself how committed you are to losing weight and getting fit. Your actions speak louder than words however: Your actions will show you the lifestyle choice you picked up, your social circle will be defined by your actions thus far as well. If your lifestyle choice is currently sedentary living coupled with consumerism then your sense of reward and punishment is different from a lifestyle choice that is active living and frugality.

The Humanistic Factor, or the Rational Cognitions we have are the most prominent contribution we make and need to remind ourselves when we seek to achieve a goal. Let us be frank however, if your desire to lose weight and get fit is merely for some short-term gain, then you will fail, because short-term things never last and are to unstable to rest a new lifestyle choice under. As soon as you lose interest in Short-Term Reason X, you lose your desire to get fit, and next thing you know you are back where you didn’t want to be. Therefore, consider some good Mid-To-Long Term Goals in order to really motivate yourself. These cognitions cover some many aspects of our conscious lives: Social, Psychological, Biological, Economic, etc…

Having now spoken about Motivational Psychology I think it is time now to also talk about the Stages of Change Model in relation to New Years Resolutions. We must understand that Changes and Resolutions are never going to come immediately, the same way that instantaneous gratification is at best illusory and at worst dangerous, so it is the case with changing oneself or ones lifestyle choices: Can an addict get off his addiction overnight? No, lest by some miracle, rather he must struggle with the temptation to fall to that addiction until a sufficient time and energy has been put into doing its opposite, namely abstaining. I have posted the model image below:

Click Image For A More In-Depth Explanation

Click Image For A More In-Depth Explanation

From this image we see that the first stage, is essentially the stage of non-awareness of ones problems or issues, in this stage things are a non-issue. The odds are if your reading this post however, you maybe thinking that something is wrong and there is something you want to change, for those who are like that you are not in this stage but have advanced to at least the second stage. Some people may even be beyond the second stage, and onto the third stage, this is essentially like the preliminary or planning stage, the stage when you consolidate all of ones resources to execute the mission. The fourth stage is the crucial stage, it is essentially embodying ones desire to change and it is at this stage that either one will stumble and fall or get higher and higher in their advancement. For those who stumble and fall however, they may either resolve to get back into the action stage or admit defeat and essentially fall into a limbo stage between non-awareness and awareness of ones problems, this stage does not have to be permanent however.

The point to me sharing this model with you however, is to show that these changes are gradual rather then immediate. Most people get fired up, and then let all that energy get expelled in short order, we do intense things and then when we reach an obstacle we give up. I say rather, keep that high motivational energy bundled up, but let the body and mind get increasingly aroused and adjusted to that higher energy level. Does a man desiring to climb Mt. Everest, do it impulsively or does he train on his body on a small mountain and then progressively higher and more harsher mountains until he finally reaches Everest? Therefore, let the Mt. Everest act as your highest aspiration and all the small mountains act as your progressive development toward that end.

Conclusion

Therefore, in Wishing You A Happy and Healthy New Year, I leave you with 5 very crucial ideas should you have the resolve to make a more positive change in your life: (1) Admit that there are motives for doing what you do, some of which you are in complete control of and some of which you are not necessarily and must therefore redirect. (2) No change is going to be immediate and short-term so do not act as if they are. (3) Aim High even if you think or know that you will never reach that end, at least you will still be very high up there in time. (4) Incrementally express more and more of your motivation for change through actions. (5) Do not just focus on Goal X as your only end but something that rises above Goal X in order to gain it in a more spontaneous manner and give thanks to God.

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Posted January 2, 2012 by jimbo9889 in Current Events

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