THE BLOG
12/30/2014 11:54 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2015

Not Your Typical New Year's Resolutions: How to Make Ones That Really Will Change Your Life

Oko_SwanOmurphy via Getty Images

2015. A New Year, fresh with pristine starts, high hopes and resolutions that we likely will never live up to, but sound good on January 1. Now, I really shouldn't talk because if I make a resolution at all, it's usually something so minor that it's not even a challenge -- like my favorite go-to: "This year, I am going to drink more water." Yeah, not exactly saving the world, and what's worse, my promise to hydrate usually fades from mind by about January 3.

I'm not getting down on resolutions, by any means. The ability to improve ourselves is one characteristic that makes us distinctly human. I'm pretty sure my dog hasn't promised to lay off bones for the year. But, have you ever thought about why we make the resolutions we do? Maybe we want to lose five pounds so we can ditch the double-chin in our selfies or eat better so our families will stop admonishing us for eating the entire sheet of cookies? (hint -- stop making them if you don't want me to eat them). We all want to correct a weakness of some sort, something that we wish we could get a handle on. These are noble causes, but what if we resolved to do the things that we already think we do well or have just plain mastered? See, I have this theory that the things we think we got "down pat" are the things that will most likely trip us up. We are never done working in this lifetime, and when we think we are, we better hold onto our hats. Call it karma, call it hubris, call it just plain stupidity, but the things we believe we have covered can actually be our greatest weaknesses. Let me give you a sweet illustration:

We attend a New Year's luncheon every year held by a friend's family -- an awesome, food-focused event where we ingest tons o' black-eyed peas and collards to ensure a year full of awesome luck and mega bucks, and also go around the table listing our New Year's resolutions -- (yes, mine is to drink more water). On one year I remember with fondness, we turned to a certain distant family member, who proclaimed she wanted "to be more [I don't remember what it was and it doesn't matter because of what comes next] ...and to treat others as I wish to be treated, but I already do that one."

My husband and I almost spit out our vodka-spiked lemonade. Are you seriously saying that you've got Jesus's whole thing down pat? I thought. You've tackled that principal that embodies the highest level of spiritual awareness in action, and you just nailed it?

We all have some deep down stuff that comes out in ways that we wish it wouldn't. What better time than the start of a new year to resolve to work on them? Here are some helpful pointers about how to make really gutsy, life-changing resolutions:

1. Be Honest with Yourself. Yes, we would all like to lose five pounds, but even if we did, would that suddenly make us happy? Make us love ourselves more? Nope. I've tried it. You have to take a deep look and see what you are, well, kind of ashamed of, maybe makes you embarrassed about yourself and even a little sad. We all have them, and identifying them is the start to making really meaningful changes that will last way beyond 2015.

2. Be Brave and Ask Someone Else. If the above doesn't bring anything to mind, ask someone who really knows you -- and you in turn really trust -- what some of the things are that, out of love, they notice and think you would want to know. And be prepared to hear the answer. If, however, they say "lose five pounds" -- unfriend them immediately.

3. Be Humble and Mean It. Not surprisingly, it kind of sucks realizing and hearing things about yourself that are off, not your best attributes and maybe even hurtful to others and yourself. But encourage yourself by understanding that even recognizing them is half the battle. Shame runs deep in all of us, but it is in our power to banish it, and by doing so, to free us. And once we do, it opens a space in us to replace with things, ideas and actions that we love and admire.

4. Practice Makes Almost-Perfect. How do you begin to tackle this stuff? Start trying to do the opposite. You know -- fake it 'til you make it. You will never get it down perfectly (remember, thinking you have is what got you here in the first place), but you will become very good at catching yourself as you do it, and eventually, before you do. At some point, you will actually be feeling it, understanding it and making it instead of only faking it anymore.

I have so many things I want to work on to become a better person. I have a mental note of those things and try every day (well most days) to live them, but I will still come up short more times than I achieve. So, I just keep on trucking and trying again -- it's the best we all can do. So, as you sit down to your New Year's feast of pickled Herring or pig's feet or whatever non-Southerners eat, make your resolution to tackle something deep down in your soul this year. You may however not want to say it out loud for the risk of being hauled off to the institution before dessert is even served. That's why when the plate is passed to me, I will again declare that this year, I will drink my 64 ounces a day. Clearly, I don't have that one down pat.