Ever brag you were going to give up chocolate only to wake up at midnight, frantically searching for the candy bar you hid in your purse, pick off the lint and wake the next day with chocolate melted on your pillow? Shame free New Year's resolutions.
We have all done it. We have listened to a friend, or ourselves, which is worse, brag about all the New Year's resolutions we have set like, this year I am going to lose 30 pounds. By Jan. 2, we have lapsed into a chocolate coma. Shamed, we give up and let ourselves off the hook until the next year.
Or worse, because we fear public humiliation or shame, we don't set any goals at all. We watch all the amazingly thin healthy people set their goals. Then we assume they are successful and think we are failures for not even trying.
This last year, my son was a total soda pop-aholic. He drank it from the moment he got up until the end of his day. The other day we all ordered soda pop with our lunch at a restaurant. I noticed my son ordered water. "It's OK," I offered, "It is my treat."
That is when he told me he didn't drink soda pop anymore. Not only that, but he hadn't for a year. He made the decision and quietly quit one day, cold turkey.
"Wow," I said to him. "I am so impressed. I wish I could do that."
"You can," he replied and then reached across the table and took away my soda pop. "Let's start with this one."
"No!" I panicked, took it back and promised to start in the New Year.
I was so impressed that privately and humbly he had set a personal goal and accomplished it. He had learned something about himself in the process. He, now, believed that if he wanted to change and improve something about himself it was possible. And in the words of many 2-year-olds, he did it himself.
Working as a team is great, but so is achieving a goal you have set all by yourself. Because my son reached his goal on his own, without pressure or cheerleading from others, the success was totally his. He could own it.
There are times in life when we need encouragement, stickers and rewards. There are other times when quiet courage and strength is called for. When children have addictions, eating disorders or other serious issues, being able to deal with them privately, and with the confidential help of a professional, can create a safe environment for the work of therapy. Shame and fear of public failure can lead to increased relapse and the need for addicts to comfort themselves with their addiction.
A secret project is always fun. A secret goal can be just as much fun.
A true change of heart and body takes time and usually some serious effort. Whether it is a family goal or a personal resolution, when we tell everyone we might add pressure to our already challenging task.
For example, if your goal is to eat a healthier diet as a family and you tell everyone — you might think they would be encouraging. You would hope that they would only eat salad in front of you and only offer you vegetables to snack on. But this is not always the case.
Sometimes the people who love us most are afraid or nervous when we change. That's why when wives lose a lot of weight, their husbands sometimes reward them with a box of chocolates and the five pounds that goes with it. It is enough to make you wonder if your family is trying to sabotage you.
The truth is, our loved ones are not trying to sabotage us when they do things that undermine our wish to change. They are simply afraid of having their mother or wife change. The thing they want most is for us to change back to the person that they know and love. Change brings fear and uncertainty.
There is a story about frogs and boiling water. If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water he will jump right out. But, if you put a frog in cool water and slowly bring it to a boil he will stay in and not notice the gradual change until it is too late.
Changing without upsetting our family balance can be a lot like boiling a frog. You can change quick and loud and have them push you to change back, or you can change gradually. Slowly and steadily you work on your goal, and by the time you have changed they have become comfortable with the change.
There is a time and place for everything. There is a time to loudly ask for help and encouragement as you work toward a goal. There is a time as a family to join together to achieve resolutions and finish projects.
There is also a time to quietly, slowly and steadily work to meet your own personal goal or family goal. There is nothing better than a happy surprise. For example, if your family goal is to eat healthier, quietly work as a family. After you have success surprise your family with a reward. Achieve the goal because it makes you or your family happy not for the attention of others. Own it and do it because you believe in it.
There are many mothers up at the crack of dawn quietly walking in the early morning hours and working on their health. There are moms quietly cleaning and working on their goal of a clean home. There are strong parents creating beautiful breakfasts and working on their goal of a close family, quietly and humbly achieving greatness one step and one day at a time. No fanfare, no public shame, just dedicated hard work day after day, a quiet and happy surprise that shows amazing personal strength.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh