It's still only January and you've already gotten cross with your noisy neighbor, despite your resolve not to do so. You've eaten at least a pound of chocolate because your boyfriend or girlfriend stood you up, even though you promised that in 2005 you wouldn't use food for comfort. And despite your resolution to be more orderly, you can't even find your list of New Year's resolutions. Now what?
Well, for one thing, don't give up. There's nothing wrong with self-improvement, even if you've hit a few bumps in the road. But "willing" your resolves to work isn't effective, especially if you feel you're giving up something you really want to do. To get those resolves to stick, you need to change how you're thinking about yourself.
One of the things that really helps me is a point made by Mary Baker Eddy in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." She wrote that each of us is the idea, or reflection, of God. In other words, we aren't imperfect beings trying to perfect ourselves. We actually reflect what God is, kind of like the image in a mirror. On the spiritual equivalent of a bad hair day, the good and pure nature we reflect from God may be obscured by fears, doubts, confusion, wrong desires, and so on. Our spiritual immortality - the gift we've received from divine Life - may become temporarily hidden, but it's always right there and it becomes visible as we shift our focus from imperfection and remember that we're made in the likeness of God.
Then the way to keep those New Year's resolutions is to relate them to yourself as God's image or idea. If you're tempted to be cross with your neighbor or co-worker, and want to stop doing it, you can first ask, "Would God, who is divine Love, design me to feel cross?" It's pretty obvious that infinite Love wouldn't create "crossness," and you don't need to yield to that temptation. But let's say you've already been obnoxious to "Mrs. X." Is it too late? Definitely not. Mary Baker Eddy made this point in Science and Health: "If you believe in and practise wrong knowingly, you can at once change your course and do right" (page 253).
How? This is where Jesus' ministry is so helpful. If you look at his life, you can see that he was always putting God first in his thoughts and actions. He understood that he and his divine Father-Mother were inseparable - just like the mirror and its reflection. Jesus even said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). When each of us does this, it becomes much easier to set priorities and to understand how to improve our characters.
For example, there was a time when I always expected the worst of myself and of those around me. I was great at gallows humor when things were going wrong. But underneath that lay a feeling of bitterness that really did need to be healed. So I needed to do more than just be more cheerful. I had to get beneath the cynical sense of humor, which masked the bitterness, and realize that bitterness isn't what divine Love would want for me or for anyone. I had to move to a more spiritual way of looking at my life.
As I drew closer to God and let Him shed His light on my life, I began to discover something amazing. I had thought that God was present intermittently - when things were going well. But now I realized that God had always been there, guiding me. Even when bad things happened, God had taken care of me and helped me out of trouble.
Which gets us back to New Year's resolutions. God is always present, even when you've just eaten those chocolates. He doesn't condemn us. Rather, through the Christ-spirit that Jesus presented during his ministry, God uplifts us. The Christ always points us back toward God as the originator of our being, and of ourselves as God's reflection.
So, if you resolve to become more loving, keep in mind that God is Love. Then become acquainted with this infinite Love and all the ways that it's comforting and strengthening people. If you long to be smarter, get to know God as divine Mind with the infinite intelligence it includes. If you need truthfulness, cultivate a sense of God as infinite Truth without an equal.
When you walk with God in this way, your progress won't be up to human will or weakness. Instead, you'll feel God's loving support each step of the way, every day of the year.