The Key to Successful Resolutions: the Big & the Small

I don’t know about you, but 2016 was a whoozy of a year for me.  Of course, there were many beautiful things that happened too, but it stands out that we had a couple of very sad and unexpected losses in the family, and I think like many, I found myself startled by world events. By the end of the year, I also lost my mojo with my cycling and yoga, and just before the holidays, a sudden terrible toothache woke me up to a crater of a cavity and a debilitating infected tooth. All of this to say, I am feeling ready to begin anew with the new year.

The other morning someone asked me if I had any new years resolutions and I told them yup: “ I’m going to start flossing every day.  …And also I’m going to do yoga and meditate every day and start cycling to work (even in the rain and freezing cold.) I’m going to stop eating gluten, start volunteering, read more journals and novels, go to bed early and maybe write a book. I am also going to only speak kindly to and of others (even alarmingly divisive world leaders), I’m going to listen deeply to others, in order to understand them better and I will stop being irritable- particularly with my husband. ” For real, I feel resolute about all of these. But when my friend chuckled and said, “keeping it simple this year hey?” I realized uh oh, maybe it’s too much?

Since then, a couple of dear friends of mine, both counselors, posted their thoughts on new years resolutions. And what each of them shared has stuck.

One of them spoke to keeping resolutions value-based. Since watching her interview, I have simplified my resolution to committing to feeling healthy. My well-being is important to me and it encompasses my relationship with my body, my mind, my spirit, my family and my community. It’s a value, a mindset and it’s the big picture. I appreciate the wisdom of letting this perennial mantra of health guide my day-to-day decisions.

My other counselor friend spoke to small goals. Her new years resolution is to wash her coffee bodum every night. So that her day no longer begins with cursing having to clean the darn thing to get to her beloved morning cup of joe -the key requisite to starting her day. It’s one little thing that has a significant positive impact on the rest of her daily life. A minutia.

Reflecting on how one small act can have a broader ripple effect, I have also returned to my original resolution. I am going to floss my teeth every day. I am going to do it carefully, with full attention and awareness. Like a meditation.

Here’s the thing, my older sister is a dental hygienist. When we were little, she used to pin me down in the closet with a flashlight in my face and make me painfully open my mouth while she pretended to fix my teeth. I love her, but I love her as my bossy big sister who wouldn’t let me borrow her clothes. She has always been on my case to floss and I have dismissed her advice as another one of her attempts to ruin my life.

Well after an emergency tooth extraction, a cavity, a nasty case of periodontitis, and a giant dental bill- all in the span of a week -I guess I was wrong. I will now humbly end my flossing strike, and recognize my true pesky and proud little sister self. I release my resentment and replace it with gratitude for my sister and her expertise while recognizing her sincere concern for my well-being. All of this, as I carefully and consciously slide the floss in the spaces between my teeth, cleansing and cleaning my way to healthier gums, a healthy smile, and a healthier narrative.

So what matters most to you this year and what one small microcosmic thing can you adapt that would have wide-reaching benefits? I look forward to hearing about it in the treatment room and supporting you on your path to a healthier you!

Happy new year!

Alda Ngo