Christmas is over and the New Year will soon be upon us. It is that awkward time between one holiday and the next when we realize changes need to be made in our life. The beginning of the New Year becomes the yearly starting gate for implementing all of the changes we long for in our life. Grand resolutions flow from our lips with the best of intentions even though we know they will last about a month. We sure feel better about making them, but this glorious week between Christmas and New Year’s is a time when sin abounds knowing knowing full well that we will eventually experience grace with the start of the New Year. That is what we tell ourselves as we attempt to trick our mind.

Falling Off the Wagon
Like you, I have changes that I seek to make. No, that is a half-truth. Let me be honest. I need to make these changes. I am no spring chicken and I absolutely must get things under control, establish some new routines, and get my mind right. It can be overwhelming because I generally have quite a bit of work to do. But, it has to be done. I have tried before, gained some distance, and then fell off the wagon for various reasons. If that isn’t enough shame, that darn wagon backs up and runs me over multiple times, as if to mock me for falling off. I always manage to pick myself up, bruised ego and all, and begin searching for that wagon again while nursing my wounds. What a vicious and demeaning cycle.

When I fall off the wagon, and it happens quite regularly, I say to myself, “I am not a robot.” I am not programmable. I am not a machine that can perform the same action over and over millions of times without error. No, I am human, hear me roar. I have emotions, needs, desires, goals, good days and bad days, ups and downs, and those are all things endemic to the human race. In other words, I am human, not super-human, not sub-human, and certainly not a robot. I am not sure the robot theory helps me with my goals, but it sure encourages me to embrace my humanity and love myself instead of trying to act, do, and become what I was never meant to be—a robot.

I could spout off some well-known phrases that we have heard a million times before about “getting ur done” and making change happen. We could talk about goal setting, action steps, support, routine, determination, and all of that, but in my experience that might get you on the wagon, but it certainly won’t keep you there. Soon, that wagon you so easily jumped on will be backing up and running you over.

Psychologists, motivational speakers, and a host of other know-it-alls probably have better answers than I can come up with on this subject. Quite frankly, I don’t know what to tell you, except to say, “You are not a robot.” But that line isn’t really helpful. So, let me give you my best thought on the subject knowing that I am writing this in the middle of the night and my best thought at this hour may not be too “best” at all. Here goes . . .

Pain and Pleasure
I wonder if successful personal change has to do with pain and pleasure. In other words, we seem to embrace change when it is forced upon us or when the reward is too great to pass up. When told we have cancer or heart issues, we are motivated to eat more healthy foods. To avoid pain, that is, death, we are forced to eat better. Knowing that eating healthy can reduce angina and de-clog arteries, we work hard to experience the reward.

Often, there are precipitating events in a person’s life, such as illness, pain, struggle, divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, etc. that prompt moments of change. About six years ago my health was deteriorating and stress got the best of me. At the time I was drinking a fair amount of diet soda which became one of the things I felt impressed to give up. It became a symbol of change for me. I took my last bottle of diet soda and conducted a funeral with two witnesses present. I presided over the death of soda in my life. I made it fun and I made it memorable. The precipitating event was my health and the pain it caused me. Giving up diet soda was a first and easy step that would reward me with quick success. Since that memorable funeral, I haven’t had one sip of soda of any kind. I guess you could say I have been soda sober now for over six years.

Time for a Funeral?
How is that for my best thought? Not much, I know. Yet, I think it is important to recognize that until the pain gets to a level where you want change, you will continue accepting its dire consequences. Until the reward becomes something you can’t pass up, long-term change has no real chance of success. What is your pain and pleasure level? Is there a precipitating event causing you to seek change? Big changes require big decisions. How much pain are you willing to accept? When it gets bad enough, you will seek its reduction.

This, of course, simplifies everything far too much, for we are complex people living in complex circumstances. Yet, I have faith that deep down inside you know what needs to change in your life. The question is whether or not you have the courage to make it happen. Has the pain become so unbearable that change is necessary? Is the reward too great to pass up? Are there things in your life for which you need to conduct a funeral?

For me, I have decided to make this year a Year of Years, one that presents great changes with great rewards. I have already conducted a few more funerals in my life with others to come. I discovered this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that seems apropos, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” It is time to leave the pain behind and experience pleasure. May this year also be a Year of Years for you! –TSW Copyright © T. S. Wise, 2019