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Now before people start commenting that the title of this piece is an oxymoron because the very notion of New Year’s on January 1st is not even Jewish, please remember a bit of Jewish teaching. Jewish tradition has recognized the idea of multiple New Year’s celebrations for years – at least since the time of the Mishna, which records four observances of four different annual cycles for four distinct purposes, ranging from political to spiritual to agricultural.
Whatever one thinks about New Year’s, New Year’s celebrations, or the practice of making New Year’s resolutions, they are all beautiful customs when done well and there is Biblical and Jewish wisdom which can help us make good on those important resolutions as we progress through the new year. Here are six tips to help you do so:
Second, be modest in your aspirations. You don’t have to fix everything at once, so pick one attainable goal and really pursue it. The Talmud teaches that when we grasp for too much, we end up with nothing at all. But, if we pick a goal to which we can really hold on, we need never let it go.
Third, just do it. Whether it’s getting to the gym, eating healthier, spending less money, or any of the other popular resolutions, just start doing it and let your emotions about what you are doing catch up with your practice. In Hebrew, we call that na’aseh v’nishma, first we do and then we hear. It really works.
Fourth, don’t go it alone. No different from communal worship or major building projects, when it comes to personal growth, there are heights which we can only attain with the support of other like-minded friends. Find a supportive community which will encourage you to keep going even when you want to give up on your resolutions.
Sixth, give yourself time off for good behavior. Except for chemical addictions, taking an occasional break from our new practices can actually help us stay committed to them over time. Think of it as a Sabbath. But like Sabbath, if you find that your time off exceeds 1/7th of your time, you need to get back to your resolution, pronto!