Respectfully Honoring Your New Year's Resolutions
by Betty Hill Crowson
   As we open the door into another new year, some of us may be thinking about the positive changes we'd like to make in 2007. These might include losing that extra twenty pounds, getting to or getting back to the gym, maintaining better control over our spending habits, acting more loving toward our significant others, taking up a new hobby or sport, giving our spirituality some much needed attention, developing healthier relationships, working on our boundary issues, and/or allowing space for our creativity to grow. And isn't it amazing, when we think about it, that many of these very same resolutions were on our list last year and maybe even the year before that?
    How is it that we can have so many good intentions and great ideas and yet fail to keep them year after year? Is it because we have no willpower? That we're weak, unconscious, lack discipline? Is it because we're pulled in so many directions at once that our goals get lost in the chaos of everyday life? Or could it simply be that we have forgotten a key ingredient in the making and maintaining of positive change?
    Perhaps it's time to take a new approach to an old dilemma. Consider for a moment what it might look like if we took all of our prospective changes for the New Year and added a key element to our resolutions. What is this key element?  It's the same thing Aretha sang about so many years ago: "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."  And while respect can imply many things --being polite, having reverence, admiration or regard for something - in its most powerful form, respect is an action verb with more potential to change our lives than practically anything else. For when we combine the attitude and action of respect with our New Year's intentions, our chances of making and sustaining positive change are immediately improved. Let's look at how this works:
     Very often, our New Year's resolutions have to do with improving our physical appearance. We want to eat better, exercise more, develop a healthier lifestyle. And sometimes we can do this, at least for a while. But over time, we gradually slip right back into our old patterns or behaviors. Why is this? Perhaps we've been trying to "whip ourselves into shape," instead of respecting ourselves into greater well-being. When we add respect to our desires for physical change, we have a better chance of maintaining these changes over time. We honor our physical self by making wise choices regarding what we eat and drink, by taking the time to go to the gym or walk with a buddy, by refusing to burn the candle at both ends, by paying attention to our needs for rest and relaxation, and by getting things checked out when we're not feeling right.
     New Year's resolutions often include relationship concerns. Maybe we feel it's time to make some pivotal changes - to let go of certain relationships and pursue others. To stop hanging around with those who drain all our energy and develop relationships with healthier people. At the same time, we might think about ways to make our own relationship behavior healthier. Incorporating respect into our relationship concerns can give us a whole new perspective. It enables us to honestly ask: "Am I all take and no give in my significant relationships? Or all give and no take? Do I tend to act like an angel on the outside, but a raving maniac within my home? Do I make unreasonable demands on my closest friends and family members, expecting them to do things my way and in my time?" Respect allows us to be considerate regarding the boundaries of others as well as individual differences. Regardless of what we have previously believed, we do not have to agree with everyone or even to like their behavior in order to treat them with good old-fashioned courtesy. Although the attitude and language of respect have sadly become obsolete in many relationships, this is without a doubt the year to resurrect respect.
Most of us probably don't have "increase spirituality" at the head of our resolution list, or maybe it's not even on the list! However, if we typically go through days feeling as though something vital is missing from our lives, perhaps this is why. Respecting the fact that we have a strong inner need for spiritual connection (which we may be misinterpreting and trying to fill in other ways) can be the beginning of the biggest change we will ever make. Perhaps we hesitate to consider spirituality as a goal because we're not quite sure how to define it, or how to go about developing it. It might simplify matters if we were to think of spirituality as the means of getting in touch with our own inner spirit and of feeling connected with some Greater Spirit. And one way to respect our need for both, is by changing the way we start our day. Instead of jumping feet-first into our clothes, computer, or chores, we can get up a little earlier and read a daily meditation, say a prayer, or reflect upon the vital question of, "what really matters." The results of respecting our need for daily spiritual nutrition will be far-reaching over time. We will develop renewed energy and stability. This, in turn, will make us better able to cope with the difficult, live in the discomfort of not-knowing, rejoice in the magnificence of the moment, and have confidence in "what remains to be seen." Respecting our need for spiritual connection will enable us to align our values and priorities to our outer behaviors and attitudes, even empowering us to make other changes with which we may have previously struggled.
     Next, we put our "attention on the intention" by becoming willing to take action steps. These might include sharing our dreams with our closest friends, making a concrete plan to realize our goals, and then finding ways to stay accountable to that plan. We may need to enlist the help of others: our friends, associates, or those who are currently doing what we wish to do. We might even consider hiring a personal life coach! As human beings, we are meant to live and love and create. So in this New Year, let's resolve to dream big, respect our dreams by taking the action they require and be willing to be surprised!

     Respect wears many faces. It's a noun and verb, learned and earned, a decision as well as an attitude. When used frequently and without reservation, respect is guaranteed to keep us true to our desires for change in this New Year.  Using respect as our foundation, we will not only be empowered to make and maintain our goals and objectives, but we will also come to realize that respect is, after all, the key ingredient to achieving our New Year's resolutions. 

     Betty Hill Crowson is a Holistic Life Coach, Retreat Director, Motivational Speaker, and Author of "The Joy is in the Journey: A Woman's Guide Through Crisis and Change." For more information, please visit www.thejoyisinthejourney.com.