About Self Improvement

vintage art courtesy of The Stock Solution  http://www.tssphoto.com/index.php

Courtesy of The Stock Solution http://www.tssphoto.com/index.php

I sometimes promise to improve, but never on New Year’s Day when my brain, sluggish from too much merriment, hatches dubious goals. In 1955, I pledged to quit making resolutions for the coming year after a gluttonous vow to save candy for a year and eat it for Christmas nearly killed me and made a thief of my younger sister.

But contemplating self-improvement makes me feel virtuous.

So periodically, I determine to do better: I’ll smile patiently when a meeting goes into overtime rather than noisily packing up my stuff and staring pointedly at the clock. I’ll never be too tired to brush my teeth, and when Joel wants to know what’s for dinner, I won’t snappishly reply, “The same thing I told you the last two times you asked.”

Usually I fail miserably at my personal-improvement pledges. This year alone I’ve flunked organized closets, small servings, and deep breathing. However, last June I made a small change I’d recommend to all those seeking self-perfection during the coming year: each night, I think of three good things about my life or the day.

The author of the article where I discovered the idea of daily appreciations anticipated my slip-shod nature by adding that I shouldn’t repeat the same items every night; but I could use variations on a theme. On Tuesday, I could think, “It’s nice to have strong arches,” and on Wednesday, “I’m glad I’m not bothered by bunions.”

At first, my nightly struggles to appreciate five things led to sleep-deprivation, which seemed a poor way to achieve stress-free living. So I cut the requirement to three and regained my composure.

My appreciations sometimes lack sophistication: “I’m glad I made lump-less gravy” or “No one laughed when I tripped over that toddler.” Some nights I fall asleep before I get started, and others I’m so grumpy I give myself a pass—the only good decision of the day.

But most nights, I quickly think of three small happinesses: the crow that chided me for invading his territory, Joel’s laughter when I described the bird’s indignant behavior, and a vine-ripened tomato handed across the backyard fence by neighbors we’re fortunate to have.

I seem to sleep more easily and awaken more optimistically when I reflect for a few moments about the pleasures of my day.

Finally, I’ve managed to make and keep a worthwhile resolution.

Please tell me about
a resolution you’ve made
and kept — or not.



12 thoughts on “About Self Improvement

    • Happy New Year to you, Tuba North, and thanks for your mood-lifting suggestion: one that I believe in, but sometimes forget about. Maybe the lovely selection you posted will help me honor the importance of music to our well being.


  1. Again, something that I have been thinking about. A positive perspective in life really affect how we handle day to day situations. While I feel that your 3 “positive notes” are admirable, I think I could only commit to 1 “positive note”. I’m going to put a jar by my bed to hold the small positive notes. Come this time next year, I think it will be fun to read my positive thoughts of the last year and reading them will in turn start 2015 on a VERY positive note!

    Thank you, Aunt Janet. There are many times that you answer the questions rambling in my head, and I’m sure you have NO idea. You and your writing are an inspiration to me.


    • I love the idea of writing one note and collecting them to read at the end of the year. I’m going to try it. I’ll let you know how I’m doing with it, and I’d like a progress report now and then from you as well. And, as always, I appreciate your kind words, Dawna.


  2. A good friend of mine decided this year, instead of making resolutions, that she would create a year-long theme for herself. When she makes decisions or or meets with obstacles during the next year, she will be mindful of of her theme and orient her thinking and goals towards it without the pressure of checklists and time-sensitive goals.

    I thought that was an awful smart and, ultimately, kind way of guiding yourself towards being the person that you would like to be. So I am creating a theme for myself as well: Renewal.

    The last year and a half has been so hectic and chaotic that I will be looking for opportunities to get back in touch with the things I like about myself, the people I love, and the things I enjoy doing.


    • What a marvelous idea, Katie. Molding oneself to a theme does seem like a gentle way to nudge yourself nearer to what you want to be. I really like the theme you selected for yourself for 2014. I’m going to think about one for me, but I’m not sure it is something I’ll be able to arrive at quickly or easily. I’ll let you know when I figure it out. Great to hear from you.


      • Katie’s idea instantly resonated with me and I appreciate her sharing it. My theme will be: Authenticity. I’m excited just thinking about it
        I also have a sticky post next to my bed as a reminder to be grateful for three things each night, but I may convert to dawna’s idea about the jar.

        Thank you Aunt Beulah for such a timely post.


  3. Your theme of authenticity intrigues me. We’ll have to talk about it. I’ve settled on conviction for mine, as in acting on my convictions. Last night I also added my first appreciation to a pretty little box my mother made for me. Like you, I’m excited about these ideas.


  4. Recalling my blessings especially the smallest ones helps me be most grateful. The BIG blessings are easy. It’s the little ‘gifts’ that really change my outlook.
    My mother would often say, why don’t you go to bed and start over tomorrow. Sometimes that is the most grateful response.


    • You are so right about the smaller blessings being those that impact our daily outlook the most. And what good advice from your mother. The wise women who raised us knew so much, didn’t they?


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