I'm not a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. So while I am (obviously) passionate about volunteering and community service, I beg you NOT to make a New Year's Resolution to "volunteer" this year. If you genuinely want to find more meaning in your life, give back, make a difference in your community or volunteer more in 2011, make this resolution instead: Resolve to be selfish, to get real and to make a promise.
Be selfish. Making a resolution to volunteer is a lot like vowing to exercise more. It's an easy resolution to make because you know you'll feel better when you do it. But carving out the time to do it regularly is really the resolution you are making. So how do you motivate yourself to workout regularly? I doubt it's because "it's the right thing to do." More likely you to drag yourself out of bed early to exercise because you know you'll be thinner, your skin will look better, you'll live longer, or your sex life will be better. Honestly, am I right? Those are the benefits that will keep you going back to the treadmill. So why not apply the same motivators that get you to the gym to get you out in your city to volunteer too? No, I'm not suggesting that volunteering will necessarily improve your sex life (well, maybe it will?), I'm merely saying it's okay to be selfish about the reasons why you are volunteering. Is it to meet other people? Does it looks good on your resume or college app? Will it bring your family closer together? Will it help you network for a job? Wanting to volunteer to help others is a noble intention, but you'll find the time to do it because of the selfish reasons you do it. So be selfish when you consider volunteer opportunities and you'll end up acting selfless.
Get real. Examine your interests honestly, get real, and own them. For example, are you slightly embarrassed that you have never missed an episode of Teen Moms? Yup. We know you watch it. So just admit it. But rather than resolve to spend less time in front of the tube watching reality shows about children having children, vow to volunteer once a month to help babysit for local teen moms so they can finish high school. Your clandestine TV pleasure will actually become useful and you'll make a big difference in the lives of others in your community.
Make a promise. Ever wonder why couples don't make marriage resolutions but make vows? Or why officials don't take resolutions of office, they take oaths? That's because resolutions are decisions and vows and oaths are promises. Promises are more active and carry more weigh. So if you really want to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others by volunteering this year, it's not enough to decide to do it. It's not enough to make a resolution. You have to promise yourself you will do it. Then make realistic attempts to keep your promise -- daily, weekly, monthly, all year. If you promise to volunteer, you'll be more likely find ways to make a difference in ways that will work for you.
To help you keep your New Year's Promise in 2011, go to iVolunteer.org. Everyday -- yes everyday -- we post new ways to make a difference -- big and small. Bookmark our National Edition so you can check in everyday, or if you live in Los Angeles or Chicago log on to our expanded city editions. Want updates that make a difference? Then subscribe and our local editors will make sure you stay in the know. Check out our Get & Give sections, our Know This weekly posts, and our Watch this collection of videos with meaning. Help others keep their promises too: spread the word and LIKE iVolunteer on Facebook and following @iVolunteer on Twitter. We promise we'll help you make a difference in 2011. Happy New Year!