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Successful Aging: Here’s a novel approach to New Year’s resolutions

It’s New Year’s Day!  A day that many of us are thinking about a New Year’s resolution.  “Which one will I choose this year?”

A novel approach to this question is based on the work of Peter Drucker, considered the most widely-known and influential thinkers on management.  His work has been studied for over 30 years by Bruce Rosenstein, author of the PBS Next Avenue article “5 New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults” (Dec. 26, 2016) and author of “Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way” (McGraw-Hill, 2013).

Rosenstein suggests several tips on selecting a resolution for us later life folks based on Drucker’s work.

Embrace uncertainty, not avoid it. To deal with that uncertainty, be aware and learn with intention by joining a book club and watching the trends in business, technology, education, culture and work. Be informed rather than surprised. Find some role models who handle uncertainly well that might be within families or among friends, writes Rosenstein.

Find your opportunities in changing conditions. Change is natural so celebrate it.  Drucker is quoted as saying, “The most effective way to manage change successfully is to create it.”  See change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Rosenstein suggests to be informed by reading unfamiliar newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites and have conversations with people in diverse groups.

Stop and reflect on your second act. The second act refers to what you may do in the future. Drucker is reported to have made dedicated time to engage in deep introspection. He thought about the past year and compared it to his expectations and then how to move forward. Rosenstein suggests writing down your thoughts through journaling and taking the time for personal reflection through the practice of mindfulness.

Resolve, remove and improve. This is based on something Drucker called systematic abandonment where you drop relationships, work and other activities that are no longer satisfying or worth it to you, then moving forward to improve. So, think about what you can do without and realize the new time you just created.

Make risk your friend. Drucker considers it risky to do nothing and passively let things happen. That risk may involve doing something quite different, such as taking a coding class, getting a degree, becoming an entrepreneur or learning new technologies. The message is, “don’t be passive and take a risk.”

We may wonder why it is important to have New Year’s resolutions in later life. Perhaps it’s because we don’t know how many more opportunities that we will have in our life stage to create a change — big or small — that benefits us personally, our families, friends and even our communities and society.

If you decide on a resolution, consider Drucker’s approach.

Here are some 2023 New Year’s resolutions of men and women in their late 60s, 70s and 80s that range from tasks to attitudes.

“I plan to be neater and not leaves piles around the house. My new year’s resolution lasts about a week.”

“I want to get rid of my large antique German furniture and also get my house organized. Getting rid of things is a never-ending task for me.”

“I don’t want to get so agitated with what’s going on around me with this tidal wave of negativity.”

“I’ve given up on new year’s resolutions because they last about three days or a week. They are easy to forget and then you realize that you have sinned.”

“I want to avoid serious diseases by keeping fit through swimming, ballet and yoga and going to school once a week.”

“I want to remember things from this past year that I was not happy with and then do some corrections.”

“I always want to to be kind to others.”

“I want to be more conscious about what I am doing by setting a goal to set goals around fitness, volunteering and my family history project.”

“I want to see my desk. I have folders, paper and meeting notes that I don’t need since I just left a nonprofit organization as a board member. I need to get rid of these things.”

“I want to take advantage of each day, carpe diem … even if I have to push myself.”

About half of New Year’s resolutions fail.  Here are a few tips on how to keep them according to Jan Miller in the New York Times (Dec. 31, 2013). Set a goal that matters and is achievable. Be specific and measure your progress and have a realistic timeline for gradual progress. I’ll add one more.  If you slip, just consider it part of the journey and keep going.

Happy New Year dear readers.  Have a safe 2023 with health, joy and kindness.

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