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It's that time of year again (well, a bit past it by the time most of you receive this newsletter) when people make New Years Resolutions.

The first step in making a resolution is to recognise that we need to change. Then we need to be specific about what it is that we wish to change, and what specific steps we are going to take in accomplishing the change. We also need to find a simple, objective way to measure progress with our resolution.

For a number of years, we, as a community, had "monthly resolutions". Once a month, we would have a meeting in which we would all write anonymous little suggestions to the others in the group about things that they might want to work on as their monthly resolution.

The first time we did this, some people left the meeting feeling depressed at all the criticism they had received.

But it wasn't long before we had become accustomed to accepting this monthly dose of criticism. (The rest of the month centred more on the "compliment board" where we would post compliments to each other.) We found that a month's effort to overcome some annoying habit, or to improve good habits like prayer and Bible reading brought dividends in spiritual growth and improved human relationships.

The original monthly resolutions were patterned on the Catholic concept of Lent; so we would each agree to inflict some kind of punishment on ourselves (e.g. missing a meal or going without something else that we liked) each time we fell short of our resolution.

But near the end of 1996, we decided that we would each tackle our number one, biggest problem, and work for a whole year on overcoming it. And that is what we have been doing all through 1997, with very satisfying results for many of us.

I, for one, have been working on impatience, and I feel that my whole personality has changed. I no longer allow myself to make excuses for being angry, and it has rarely been necessary to suppress anger to accomplish this either.

The problem hasn't disappeared altogether, but it has convinced me that we do not have to chalk weaknesses up to irreversible genetic traits. We can change. Resolutions can work.

So if you have made a New Year resolution this year, let this be a reminder and a goad to stick with it. Even when you fall, pick yourself up and carry on. Resolve to keep working on it all year long; and if you do, you will make progress. (Note: We would caution against resolutions about dieting or quitting drugs. Often the real problem is why you do these things; so try to work on that instead.)

If you haven't already made a resolution, why not make one now. It doesn't matter that New Year's Day is past. Resolutions can start at any time.

As the saying goes: Today is the very first day of the rest of your life!

(See also Empowerment.)

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