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New Year's Message

SALT LAKE CITY -- With 2010 upon us, many take the opportunity to take stock of their lives, reviewing the past and considering the future. Some will make the well-known "New Year's resolution."

I admit to sometimes playing the skeptic with respect to these famous resolutions, in part because of some of my own failures to keep them. And as I drive by any crowded fitness center in early January, I can't help but chuckle to myself, knowing that within a few short weeks, half of the people in the gym will probably not be at that facility again until the following January.

Yet truthfully, the opportunity for a new year with new opportunities is a great blessing. As one who has personally spent many years working, failing, and occasionally succeeding at these resolutions, I would like to offer a few observations and suggestions to making real change in our lives.

1) Turn resolutions into goals. This personal resolve is good; turning it into a written and measurable plan of action is even better. Returning to the gym example above, if you have never worked out consistently, a declaration of "This year I will work out every single day" may be a little dramatic. Try instead something like this, recorded and posted somewhere with a place to record your results:

OBJECTIVE: Improve physical fitness
GOAL: Work out at an average of four times per week for the entire year
REWARD: For each month with a three time per week average, I will treat myself to a movie night with my best friends

Using this format, your resolution doesn't have to fall apart the first day you can't make it to the fitness center!

2) Share your plan with others. Accountability can be a tremendous help. When we share our hopes and dreams and, particularly, our plans of action with the important people in our lives, they can become a great source of strength. And in some cases (as in the physical fitness example), we can even have a good time working on these resolutions with our best friends and family members. Use any spiritual tools you might have, like prayer or meditation, to give you increased focus and resolve.

3) Follow through continuously and be flexible. Continue to look at, measure, and update your goal. Too many resolutions are rigid, setting us up for failure. But any sincere plan of action can be changed to fit our ever-changing lives. Perhaps working out four times a week is too big of a stretch and we're getting discouraged. Why not back it off to three good exercise sessions per week? While this might seem like a broken resolution or a failure, a year of working out at least three times every week would be a great success story for nearly all of us. Goals and resolutions should be made to challenge and inspire us and to help us improve, not to tie us down or lose hope.

4) Remember that real change in our lives is always possible--this is what makes us distinctly human. Never lose hope, and realize that any improvement is true success. I will admit it: I have been a person with consistently written goals for nearly 25 years. The ugly truth? Most of the time I don't quite reach my actual goals. I could easily consider myself a great failure. But as I look back on this ongoing process at self-improvement, I have truly stretched and grown and achieved in my quest to become a better person. And I know, without doubt, that I have made far more progress through this process of goal setting than short-lived resolutions or, even worse, giving up entirely. Each day (not just New Year's Day) is a great gift, a new start and an opportunity to make great things happen.

Happy New Year!