January is upon us once more, and along with the icy streets and post-holiday sales come something that all of us attempt, but most of us resent: New Year’s resolutions. Robert Burns, the author of “Auld Lang Syne,” might have been referring to New Year’s resolutions when he said “The best laid plans o’ mice and men [often go astray].” Of course, making plans and goal setting are not unfamiliar concepts at Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House and The Harbor: they are happening almost every day in case management meetings and therapy groups. So what role does once-a-year-goal-setting play in an organization where self-improvement is so central to the daily mission? Let’s allow the residents to tell us the answer in their own words.
Last month, residents were asked to write down one of their New Year’s resolutions for 2010, including a reason this goal was important to them and a few steps they planned to take to achieve it. The most popular resolutions at Bonaventure House and The Harbor involved commitments to improving physical health such as quitting smoking, eating better, and exercising more. Residents were aware of the health risks they faced and hoped to protect themselves from things like high blood pressure and lung cancer. A.J. admitted that “[Smoking] takes a lot from me,” and Raynard wrote honestly, “I want to live longer.”
Also commonly mentioned were goals of an academic nature. How are these for standards of achievement: “Pass the LSAT with a score in the 90th percentile,” “Get my G.E.D.,” and “Maintain a 4.0 or higher grade point average in college”? These residents know themselves, and they know they can achieve these goals! Reasons mentioned for making these resolutions revolved around creating better opportunities – for grad school programs, scholarships, jobs, and self-sufficiency.
The rest of the 2010 resolutions focused more on improving social, emotional, and spiritual health: “Be happy,” “Keep doing my best,” “Get in contact with my higher power daily,” and “Become an advocate for my community.” Octavius committed to having an open mind, “because a closed mind can’t be fed, just like a closed mouth can’t be fed.” Lawler vowed to put his best foot forward, because “Today is important.” Bill wanted others to know that God is present and accessible, and William wanted a way to give back.
These are no small goals, and anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution knows that it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Thus, we also asked the residents to list some of the specific steps they would take to help ground their lofty aspirations in realistic actions. These included: “No late night snacks,” “Set time aside twice a day for prayer and meditation,” and “Attend more outside groups.” Others listed “Rest so I don’t get overwhelmed,” “Just smile,” and “Begin to share my life story with others.”
One clear trend that unites these resolutions is the Alexian Brothers value of holism. Our residents are aware that all aspects of their health are important – physical, mental, spiritual, social and emotional. They also know that by sharing their goals with others, they will garner the support needed to assure that their best laid plans will not “go astray”. Bhuttu sums things up well when he states, “I ignored my well-being for a long time and it is time for me to construct a solid foundation for my life slowly and gradually over the next year.”
-Devon Parish, ABAM Outreach Coordinator