The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 29, 2012

Most important story you'll write is your own

Keeping The Faith column

By Bev Davis


Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published Jan. 1, 2003. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.

Today is the absolute best time to do something you may have never done before — make an appointment with yourself.

I know it’s tough. You have company for the holidays. You stayed up late last night. You’re tired, but can’t slow down for fear of not getting everything done.

Those are only a few of the reasons you need to make that appointment.

On the first day of the new year, we have all been given a clean slate, and Tuesday we will begin to write upon it.

How sad it would be if we don’t take the time to get alone for a few minutes, do some evaluating and get a clearer idea of what kinds of things we will write on this fresh new page of our lives.

New Year’s resolutions have never really worked for me, but setting goals has. I find I accomplish far more if I aim at something than if I just set out randomly hoping to be a better person this year.

That concept is too vague and doesn’t define any specific changes I want to make.

The goals do not have to be lofty and impressive. Simple ones are more likely to be reached. In addition to the goal, there needs to be a set of objectives — a concrete plan consisting of steps I will take to reach that goal.

I would also suggest starting with some type of a spiritual goal rather than the annual plan to lose weight, stop smoking or break some other habit. Those are all good goals, but I truly believe that unless we deal with the inside of us, we won’t have much success in changing outward actions.

Here are some guidelines I’ve used over the years to help me set some goals for the new year.

- Sit down and think about just one thing you would like to change. It might be a negative attitude, a tendency to criticize too much, a tendency to gossip or a habit of whining and complaining all the time.

- Picture yourself the way you would like to be once you have overcome the obstacle you’ve identified.

- Think of some circumstances in which you often practice that mindset or habit. List each one, and then write out a statement that provides a strategy for changing your behavior. For example, if you tend to always be saying something negative, your strategy statement might be, “I will think before I speak and weigh the consequences of what I’m about to say. If it will hurt someone, pull down someone’s mood or take the conversation on a negative bent, I will either be silent or find a way to make a positive statement.”

- Dr. Phil says we never break a habit. We have to replace it with another one. You might list some actual statements you could make. You may need to look for the root causes of your negativity. Is it just a habit you’ve fallen into, or are there some issues you haven’t addressed about yourself? Criticism is usually a mirror — we criticize something in someone else because we don’t like that characteristic in ourselves. Deal with the person in the mirror, and half the battle is won.

- Be firm with yourself and work toward consistency. This is why it’s best to tackle one change at a time, rather than a whole list. Change takes time, and making one change at a time makes us stronger and more able to tackle others.

- Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice the new behavior until it’s as natural as breathing. You will see results.

I wish you a Happy New Year and one filled with wonder, hope, love and good, positive changes in your life.

The most important story you will ever write is your own. Write it carefully, and write it well.