New Year’s Resolutions are most often made to improve one’s physical health. But our bodies aren’t all that needs to be healthy; especially in this busy, bustling, modern world we need to take care of the rest of ourselves. One section of my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions was to do with another kind of health from the physical. Some might call it emotional health, or mental health, or spiritual health – it’s all of these things, and I just referred to it casually as my Morale. In this article I’d like to offer some advice to anyone who wants to improve their quality of life in 2013.
Don’t get me wrong: I certainly did make resolutions regarding my physical health. But one of the biggest challenges we face these days is finding time in our schedules just to enjoy life. It might sound crazy, the idea of scheduling fun or leisure, but since we schedule everything else in life, why not? And more important than just scheduling, by setting New Year’s Resolution goals for my Morale, I ensured that I would make my Morale a priority in 2012. As with all my other goals, I kept my Morale goals simple, realistic and measurable.
Each one of us will have unique Morale goals, depending on our life situation, our abilities and our interests. Some examples for the year might be: I want to spend 100 hours of real, quality time with my kids; I want to compose 12 new songs; I want to devote 50 hours to volunteer work; I want to read 10 new books. What I’m emphasizing here is that these goals shouldn’t be connected with physical activity. I’m talking about the rest of life: quality time with people who are important to you; quality time spent on a hobby; quality time giving to the community, etc.
For me, I chose two things which were very important to me and which I thought deserved to take priority over any other choice I might make with my leisure time. The first was quality time with my wife. If this goal isn’t applicable to you, you might consider more time with your kids, your parents, your siblings, your close friends, or anyone who is really important to you and with whom you want to invest effort into building or maintaining a relationship. My second Morale goal was quality time with God. If you’re not religious, this might mean a new priority on education, or learning a new skill, or just quiet, reflective “me-time” where you get away from the demands of the world. No matter what this goal might look like to you, the point is to somehow improve yourself in a way that is important to you.
For quality time with my wife, I used as a unit of measurement the “date”. I imposed this constraint because it can be difficult to quantify the regular interaction between spouses. Was that shared joke part of my score? What about that wonderful family afternoon playing with the kids? In order to make my job of measuring progress toward my goal I needed something that was easy to measure, and I figured that a date, where we actually get out of the house and leave the kids in someone else’s care, showed a commitment on our part to making time together a priority. Occasionally I would count a date that happened at home, but I only did so when we’d pre-planned to set that time aside for each other and then actually did spend quality time together (as opposed to doing chores or checking emails, etc). I travel overseas a lot, so setting up a regular date routine was challenging, but I established the baseline goal of 24 dates in the year. On top of this I added known periods where we’d be away from the kids (a week away in March, two days in July and our anniversary) and came up with a total goal of 32 dates. With my monthly milestones set at 2 dates per month plus those three extra groups in March, July and December, I had a useful progress line to follow as my unpredictable travel schedule often swept me away for 2 or 3 weeks at a time. The whole point of this goal was to ensure that my wife and I carved time out of the chaos to devote to each other.
For quality time with God, I used simple hours as the unit of measurement. Due to my travel I knew I couldn’t rely on regular church attendance to take care of this, so I was forced to find other ways to stay connected. I started reading my Bible more regularly, and I’d take breaks every so often to read a book on Christian spirituality that interested me. I made time for a Christian small group study in order to make new friends and be part of the community. And I started praying a lot more often. For anyone who thinks that prayer can only be done in church on one’s knees, I can tell you from new experience that I’m amazed at how easy it is to have a meaningful conversation with God walking through an airport (which I do a lot). I didn’t track every second that I spent in prayer towards my goal, but just by making my relationship with God a priority I found myself making time to pray much more often.
Please let me stress again that these goals were what I wanted to accomplish: yours may be completely different. The general principle on New Year’s Resolutions and goals I wanted to make in this article is that it’s essential for our overall health to consider aspects of life separate from physical health. Our emotional/mental/spiritual health – our Morale – is at least as important as our physical health, and I encourage everyone to consider their real priorities when setting resolutions for 2013.
All photos courtesy of the author – All rights reserved