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.