Jennifer Hancock: Jan. 18, 2014

January 18, 2014 

With a new year upon us it is time for new resolutions.

How, exactly, are we going to improve our lives and be better people?

I suspect many readers made a new year's resolution and that just as many have already broken those resolutions.

The New Year's resolution ritual doesn't have to lead to failure every year. The key is to focus on how you define success in the first place.

Most people define success in material terms.

If they get a raise, lose weight, get a promotion or if they get that new super high-tech gadget, they are successful.

I'm not going to lie to you. I covet some of those tangible material things, too. I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to attain toys or be healthier.

But attaining toys and material goods is different from attaining success in life.

This is the difference between having short-term material goals and long-term emotional/spiritual life goals.

Ideally, your short-term material goals should help you achieve your long-term emotional life goals.

But you can only do that IF you know what your emotional goals are.

My emotional life goal is to be happy. And to do that, I have to be alive and healthy and surrounded by people I care about.

When things get difficult and I am unable to accomplish some of my short-term goals, which happens to all of us, I remind myself what is truly important and focus on making sure my emotional needs are being met. If they are, I feel successful regardless of my material success.

Having found my emotional center, I am more able to motivate myself to continue working on the material goals I may have.

It isn't that I don't have material goals. I do. And I strive to attain them.

I just have them prioritized lower than my emotional/philosophic/spiritual goals. Those come first.

Most importantly, they aren't dependent on whether or not my material goals are met or not.

My advice is to take care of your emotional/spiritual/motivation/philosophic goals first. If you do, you will find that you have greater satisfaction in life, your material success will be less important than it once was, and you will feel better about the priorities you do have.

This year, instead of focusing on superficial resolutions, why not make a resolution to take care of your emotional health first? If you are suffering, do what you need to do and get the help you need to take care of your emotional health properly.

If that means making an appointment to see a psychologist, do it.

Make your emotional health your priority this year. You will be glad you did.

Jennifer Hancock, a humanist educator and the author of several books, is on the web at and on Twitter@jenthehumanist.

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