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Commentary: New Strategy On New Year's Resolution

WFAE commentator Sally Phillips. hspace=4

We're now one week into 2011. How are your New Year's resolutions going? If you're like WFAE commentator Sally Phillips, not well. But this year she's changing strategy to make sure she doesn't fail to keep her resolution. This year I'm not making any new year's resolutions. Sounds kind of subversive, doesn't it? According to 2010 study by the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to become automatic. So if I decide that my new year's resolution is going to start on January 1st - okay on January 2nd after the party leftovers are gone - I've not succeeded unless I'm still working at it on March 8th. If I'm motivated to change and improve myself, why wait until the beginning of the year? Breaking bad habits is really hard, and there's nothing magical about January 1. There's no resolution leprechaun to sprinkle magic fairy dust that will make me eat less, spend less, swear less or exercise more. Trust me - I have learned this directly and have the unused healthy cookbooks, abandoned budgets, potty mouth and pristine sports equipment to show for my efforts. For years, each January 1st, I vowed to stop biting my nails. One year, I bought that nail polish that makes your nails taste nasty. I just peeled it off. Another year, I tried to pamper my nails and bought expensive nail-growing polish. That didn't work either. It took the anticipation of my engagement ring to make me stop. There's nothing like a little bling to spark a change. Inspiration is actually the key to self-improvement and that comes from deep within, not some arbitrary date. And anything worth doing is worth doing today, right now. I try to take that approach every morning when I open my medicine cabinet to grab my toothbrush and toothpaste. I re-read a passage from the Buddhist monk, Thich Nat Hahn, that I taped inside the cabinet door years ago: This morning I wake, grateful in knowing that 24 hours lay before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and view all beings with eyes full of compassion. This small but powerful affirmation is my daily resolution. Instead of worrying about the multitude of good behaviors and habits, I try to remember that one saying. And even that can be boiled down to a single word: mindfulness. Bringing mindfulness into my daily routine helps me be more careful about what I eat, buy, say and do. One word covers all of the resolutions I have on January 1st and it doesn't get old by March 7th. But it's not failsafe either. I do fall off the mindfulness wagon quite a bit. But at least I don't have to wait until January first to give it another go; I just start again the next day, re-committing myself to the little passage inside my cabinet. Sally Phillips is a marketing executive in Charlotte. She lives in Mooresville.