Ready or not, here comes 2013.
Are you ready to bid farewell to 2012? Are you ready for New Year’s resolutions? Are you ready to self evaluate the year that’s passed?
Are you ready to climb back on the monkey bars?
I hate to brag, but I absolutely dominated the monkey bars as a kid. It’s no exaggeration that if playground monkey bars had been an Olympic event, I would have stood atop the podium waving wildly at my mother as the national anthem played and Bob Costas got teary eyed.
Obviously, there were gym teachers who suggested I forgo my amateur monkey bar eligibility and turn pro. But for me, the monkey bars were never about money or fame. I climbed for pure sport.
They were simple times when satisfaction was measured one metal bar at a time. My legs swung just far enough off the ground to create a tiny ration of risk, but not so high that a fall would cause serious injury.
When I felt really bold, I’d try lunging ahead and skipping a bar. But that rarely worked out very well for my ego — or my tailbone.
Sounds a lot like the process of setting New Year’s resolutions, doesn’t it?
Even as a youngster I made lists each year of the things I wanted to improve upon. Sometimes the goals were attainable, just a single bar away on the monkey bars. But other times, my eyes were bigger than my reach and the goals weren’t simple — they were simply impossible.
I remember the year as a young man when I set a goal to do one pushup on Jan. 1, and then increase that number for every day of the year. The plan was that by December I’d be doing more than 300 pushups a day, without stopping, right until Dec. 31. On the final day of the year I was set to do 365, leap to my feet and pound my chest.
I made it to Jan. 12.
Believe it or not there were years I was so skinny I could hide behind a salted pretzel stick. So, naturally, I set goals to add mass and gain weight. Then, when I got older – whoops! – I had to make goals to lose it.
Many times I’ve set goals to give up soda, and once I even made a resolution to invent my own.
I failed at both.
By the time I arrived at college, my New Year's resolution tradition went digital. I created pie charts and graphs monitoring my progress throughout the year on a range of personal improvement areas. But all too often I didn’t meet the majority of those benchmarks and I beat myself up for the failures.
Once, before I was married, I made one of my roommates late for a New Year's Eve party because I was in my room frantically putting the finishing touches on my top 10 list of resolutions for that upcoming year.
One was to be a better roommate.
As I’ve become older and more experienced at the lessons and blessings of both success and failure, I’ve learned to shorten and simplify those lists. I’ve discovered tremendous joy in New Year's resolutions that are just one reach away on the monkey bars.
Each successful reach and grip of the next bar gives me momentum and pulls me forward.
Lose a few pounds. Run a bit longer. Be a better friend. Write just a little more often in my journal.
Pray more. Serve more. Love more.
Of course, I've also learned that even the easiest goals can slip from my grasp and I tumble to the ground. But, thankfully, I usually land on my feet and there’s always a friend either on earth or in heaven ready to spot me and give a boost back up to the bars.
2012 has been a challenging year for me and it feels like I’ve slipped from the bars more often than not. I’m grateful for family and friends who’ve lifted me back up into the air as I regripped each and every day.
This week, millions of us will set new goals for the year ahead. May we remember the satisfaction that comes from taking one bar at a time, relying on momentum and our spotters around us, and setting reasonable goals that get us from one side of the year to the next.
Cue the national anthem. I’m back on the monkey bars.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters" and "The 13th Day of Christmas." He can be reached at [email protected] or jasonfwright.com.