Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How New Year's Resolutions Become Realities

Beach in the Dominican RepublicA few years ago, I ushered in the New Year with bare feet and new friends, just beyond the border of plush chaise lounges that extend Cabarete’s beach bars toward the open sea. Fireworks shot into the sky, and our international crew of traveling surfers gazed upward, into bright stars and dreams for the New Year. We didn’t talk about our resolutions, not then, anyway, but I know we all hoped that this would be the year we stuck to our best intentions.

A few days ago, circa December 29, 2015, my friend Jason—church worship leader, real estate broker, father of 3, Scottish sea captain—productive guy, Jason—once again broached that yearly subject of New Year’s Resolutions.

“So Jamie, I was reading this article,” Jason began, over raw oysters with me and his wife, my friend Tracy. “Do you know the most effective way to keep a New Year’s Resolution?”

I did not. Because I’m one of the masses in that department; I, too, sit down at the start of each year and resolve to change my life, or at least better myself—though I tend to wait a couple days, till I’ve transitioned from fuzzy slippers and elastic waistbands to zippers, and grooming and stuff. And by February, possibly March, I’m still grooming, but the lofty goals I’ve set for the year have somehow deteriorated into crumpled up post-it notes.

So what’s the solution? What’s the most effective way to keep a New Year’s Resolution?

Fun on the beach

“The article said you have to schedule change into your day,” said Jason. “You need to write one thing down, on your day-timer, in your phone, and make it part of your task list.”

Task list? That’s the problem, I thought. Most Resolutions end up feeling like tasks, and at the end of the day—or to-do list—we modern-day adventurers rebel against the should-like nature of too many task-y constraints.

“Hold on,” said Jason, reading my mind. There was more.

“Example: ‘I want to be a better dad,’” he offered. “Great! But what does that mean? How do I be a better dad?”

The big concept is a sum of its parts, he explained. “Maybe I write ‘Play chess with Finn tonight.’ And on Wednesday, I write ‘Go over piano scales with Marley.’” (Jason and Tracy’s kids have cool names.)

“That way, there’s a specific thing I’m going to accomplish,” he continued. And bit by bit, in Jason’s heart, these ‘things’ become the very essence of being a better dad. One loving act at a time, Jason becomes the change he wants to see in his world.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. (I read that on a Celestial Seasonings tea bag, but that doesn’t mean Gandhi wasn’t onto something.)


There are no shortcuts, imply Jason and his article, maybe even Gandhi. It’s all about the effort. The effort is the building block, the molecular structure, the mile marker along the road to any sort of change you want to see in your world.

By now, New Year’s partying has subsided into early January, and though you’re savoring Cabarete’s beautiful sandscape, you’re likely thinking of things you’d like to accomplish in 2016.

Example: ‘This year, I want to get in shape.’ Sound familiar? Another friend, Ralph, shared some deep thoughts on that age-old Resolution and his on again, off again relationship with our local gym.

“I love going to the gym, I do,” says Ralph. “I like the camaraderie of the gym, seeing people working on themselves, dreams of the future in their eyes. I also see the defeat when they look in the mirror—the downcast eyes, the deflated energy…” As a barber, Ralph knows something about human nature, and his observations—rather philosophical, like Ralph himself— shed some light on the ebb and flow of New Year’s resolve.

But when you realize ‘getting in shape’ is all about the journey, the destination—‘being in shape’—becomes a way of life. And while some days find you dragging your feet, those daily steps toward overall fitness become as essential to your well-being as your morning Café con Leche.

Relaxation and exertion aren’t mutually exclusive—some might even say they’re partners in crime. If you’ve journeyed to Cabarete (hopefully, you’re already here, reading this beneath a palm tree), you’ve likely noticed the ease with which people incorporate fitness into their day.

So while you’re in Cabarete, use the landscape to jump-start your fitness goals. Swim freestyle in the ocean for a bit, then float on your back and stare at the clouds. Go for a sunset run on the beach (or a sunrise run, if you’re looking forward to 2 for 1 Happy Hour). Add yoga to your surf day, and wonder about inner and outer balance.

Try a kiting lesson, or a windsurfing lesson, or a surf lesson, or a stand-up paddleboard lesson. And if you’re already committed to one of these sports, commit a little more: get up a little earlier to surf, and stay in the water a little longer.

Cabarete has plenty of gym outlets too, including cross-fit and kickboxing. And stretch your mind, as well as your body, with some non-traditional conditioning like pole dancing, and trapeze. One activity, one class, one step each day; and write it down. (Vacation’s a great place to start keeping a journal.)

When you look back on your trip, the words “flying through the air” and “hanging upside down” will be proof-positive that that New Year’s Resolution is hitting its stride. Now, if only your work-outs home were as scenic....

New Year’s Resolution #2: Come back to Cabarete.

Beach view

This year, I’ve made just one solid, rather thrilling resolution: Read one book a week. It’s only Wednesday, but I’ve already finished a 270-page essay collection. This leaves the rest of the week for more exercise, as essential to my well-being as my morning cup of coffee, con Half and Half and Sugar in the Raw.

(Auto-Renew Year’s Resolution: Never, ever run out of Half and Half and Sugar in the Raw.)

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