Why do we always revert to our old ways and ignore our resolutions as soon as the bloom of the new year begins to wane? Here's what I tell myself: If I always think what I always thought, I am always going to get what I always got. That age-old truth seems to wreck my New Year's resolutions like clockwork.
But not this year. For 2013, I'm taking a different tack: I'm going to focus on shedding old perspectives and negative mindsets that prevent me from seeing the world with fresh eyes. As I meditate on my strategy and tactics for sticking with my New Year's resolutions, I'm reminded of a wonderful afternoon from my childhood that involved Uncle Fred. An extraordinary person, Fred was the kind of uncle that everyone wished they had.
Fred managed the local downtown shoe store, and I was so proud of his success -- the spiffy new wingtips he always wore said it all. He exuded incredible warmth with his perpetual ear-to-ear smile. And best of all, he was a stellar magician. Not the run-of-the-mill kind who could find a quarter in your ear -- that was kid's stuff. Uncle Fred performed real magic.
One day, when I was about five years old, Uncle Fred stopped by and demonstrated an incredible act of magic. It's a good thing my best friend, Stevie Brown, happened to be hanging out with me at my grandmother's house and could witness the amazing feat; otherwise no one would believe it had actually happened.
Stevie and I sat down on the floor of Grandma's big round porch while Uncle Fred searched the ground in front of the steps until he found the perfect pebble. He sat down with us and revealed the small rock in his palm. Then he pulled out a fancy silk handkerchief (another sign of his success) from his back pants pocket. Uncle Fred shook the handkerchief open and placed it over his hand, covering his palm and the pebble, after which he uttered the following incantation: "Abracadabra puddin' pie, kiss the girls and make them cry." He waited a second or two, then whipped the handkerchief off the palm of his hand. To our sheer amazement, the pebble was gone, and in its place sat a gleaming gold pirate's coin. We knew the coin was real, because it had a pirate's face on one side and a ship flying the Jolly Roger on the other.
Uncle Fred let us stare in awe, then he said to me, "Would you like to try this trick?"
"Oh, yeah!" I said, hardly able to contain my excitement.
Uncle Fred jumped down the steps and found another pebble suitable for transforming into gold. "Okay, let me have your hand." I extended my arm and Uncle Fred dropped the pebble into my palm, then covered it with his handkerchief.
"Now grab the corner and say, 'Abracadabra puddin' pie, kiss the girls and make them cry' just as you snap the handkerchief off your palm," he continued. "But, beware of one thing... when you're doing this magic trick, never ever think about a black cat. You know, Bobby, black cats can be bad luck and if you think of one, the magic won't happen."
"Okay, I won't think about a black cat, Uncle Fred," I promised.
I steeled myself and focused, uttered the phrase, "Abracadabra puddin' pie, kiss the girls and make them cry," and then snapped off the handkerchief just as Uncle Fred had said to. I couldn't believe my eyes: no gold coin, just one gritty old pebble.
My disappointment was palpable. Uncle Fred put his hand on my shoulder and asked, "Did you think about a black cat?"
"I did, Uncle Fred," I said, "I couldn't help myself."
"That's OK," Uncle Fred said as he patted my shoulder. "It takes practice. Does your friend Stevie want to try it?"
Stevie's eyes grew wide. "Oh, yeah, I know I can do it."
Uncle Fred carefully re-explained the ritual and warned Stevie about the perils of the black cat.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to think of a black cat!" Stevie assured Uncle Fred. He then intoned, "Abracadabra puddin' pie, kiss the girls and make them cry." Stevie whipped the handkerchief off his palm and stared down at the pebble.
"Rats! I was thinking about a black cat, too."
I nodded my head in solidarity and said, "Wow, it's hard not to think of a black cat, huh?"
Later that day, Stevie and I recaptured the magic we'd just experienced. We agreed that no one, anywhere, could have better shoes than Uncle Fred's. We agreed that that Uncle Fred was the only person we knew who carried a nice silk handkerchief in his back pocket. Best of all, we agreed that Uncle Fred was the only guy in the whole wide world who could do the magic trick without even once thinking of a black cat.
In 2013 I intend to ditch my "black cat thinking" so that real magic can happen in my life. What thoughts might prevent magic from happening in yours?
For more by Rob White, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.