New Year’s Resolutions
I can’t remember the last time I made a New Year’s resolution. Like so many others, I used to make grand, sweeping promises — only to completely forget my lofty resolutions by March. My intentions were always good, but my follow through was lacking. It’s so easy to say something like, “I resolve to be a better person this year,” but not understand myself well enough to know what the hell I even meant.
Was I sick a lot last year and should I try hard to keep from catching a cold? Maybe I meant I’ll be better at a particular task, like parallel parking. Yeah, there’s something truly worthy of a New Year’s resolution. I know, I’ll work at being a better wife, mother and friend — aren’t all those things part of being a better person? Crap, never mind; it’s too generic and too much work, so I’ll think of something else next year. But …
As is the natural evolution for most cops, I developed an increasingly negative view of the world and (most) everyone in it — even myself. Through my jaded years, I thought New Year’s resolutions were a stupid waste of time. Really. None of my previous ideas of grandeur had ever come to fruition, so why bother? Hell, if I resolve to be a better person, I’m pretty much setting myself up for failure … and I hate failing.
Getting trapped in this kind of negative, defeatist mindset is obviously toxic; and it’s also hard to get out of. It’s similar to another conundrum I’ve wrestled with over the years: I have more chronic pain and am out of shape when not working out consistently, but it’s the chronic pain preventing me from working out as I know I should. I’ll get stuck in this swirling eddy for a few months, then resolve to climb out of the hole. I’ll stop giving in to the pain; I’ll suck it up and find my way back to better physical health. I guess I can resolve to be a better person.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of resolution is: “The act or process of resolving, the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones; the act of answering (solving), and; the act of determining.” So, what’s the sticking point with this concept at New Year’s? It’s just that — New Year’s, that is. I can resolve to do anything at any time in a given year. The first of January doesn’t need to be my moral compass for the rest of the year. I’m perfectly happy with smaller, bite-sized resolutions throughout the year.
Take your next shift. Why not make a mini-resolution to write a cite you normally would have overlooked? How about a mini-resolution to try to get along with that squad mate who is, um … challenging? There’s an old saying you can eat an elephant one bite at a time. Why not use that as a touchstone in your own life? Rather than looking at a year and thinking, “Gads … there’s too much to do, I’m just happy to get home in one piece at the end of my shift,” just worry about that one shift.
Once you get the hang of trying daily resolutions, expand to weekly, monthly, or maybe even an entire shift rotation. While some of your mini-resolutions may not be successes, it’s better to suffer small disappointments than fail because you bit off more than you could chew. The idea is to keep these simple and manageable, and give them a reasonable amount of time to either have a positive outcome or get kicked to the “nice try” pile.
Look at your last eval; it’s a great source for mini-resolutions. Unless you walk on water, I’d hazard a guess you’ve got areas that “need improvement” or are only “acceptable.” Why not heed what your sergeant is telling you and work on these areas? What have you got to lose? You never know, you might end up becoming a better person … or at least, a better cop.
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