Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gifts to Self

It's that time of year. I am making lists and checking them twice--and I'll bet you are, too. Finding the perfect gift for someone can be joyful or stressful, depending on the situation. My lists overwhelm me at times, but I remind myself that I always get through them by December 25th. Even if I have to stay up late on Christmas Eve, everything eventually gets wrapped and tagged and put under the tree. And then, the next morning, all the sacrifices and work are worth it. 

I'd like to suggest a gift we can all give ourselves--the gift of keeping our commitments. I'm not talking about promises to spouses or children, or responsibilities at work or church or in the community. I'm referring to the promises we make to ourselves.

With the New Year coming, we may be thinking about resolutions we want to make, changes we'd like to see in our lives. I like to think of those prayerful, mindful changes as gifts I'm giving myself. Why? Because it's a way to not let them get lost in the shuffle of all the other things going on in my life. But more important, it's a way to increase my integrity. 

When I get up early so that I can do yoga, I'm giving myself health. When I turn off the internet and face that scary blank page in my work-in-progress, I'm giving myself creativity. And any time I keep a promise I've made to myself--no matter how big or small--I give myself honesty and self-respect. 

Our lives are fluid and infinitely changeable. Challenges crop up; emergencies arise. Some days, we absolutely have to let things fall by the wayside so that we can save dinner or a deadline or a child's health or our own sanity. But let's guard against letting excuses gradually take us away from those precious commitments we've made to better ourselves. 

Remember--studies have shown that we each have a finite amount of self-control every day. We only have so much to spread between all those changes we'd like to see, so choose your resolutions strategically. Make your new commitments small at first; they can grow over time as they become ingrained habits, and then you can turn your self-control to other things. Little successes will become great things in less time than you think.

Remember this, too--the pain of self-discipline is far milder than the pain of regret. (I chant that to myself often as the alarm clock sounds or distractions sing their siren song.) 

So in the few days left until we celebrate Christmas and then ring in 2013, spend some time pondering what gifts you'll give yourself in the New Year. Then do your best to receive them--make them a part of you and your routine. I promise you: this time next year, all the sacrifices and work will be worth it.