By Sgt. Robert G. Cooper IIIDecember 30, 2008
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. -- Drop the fork and step away from the pie! Good. Now, very slowly, reach into your wallet, grab your credit cards and toss them into the paper shredder. Finally, take that pack of cigarettes and crush them beneath your feet!
So maybe New Year's resolutions can sometimes come off as a prison sentence, often presenting difficult aspirations for many Americans. But while these tests of fortitude might seem overwhelming, even clichAfA, the idea of bettering one's self at the beginning of each year is a cultural and introspective tradition. For members of the U.S. Army, New Year's resolutions reflect a commitment to constantly improve upon each individual's professional and personal goals.
"New Year's Day is the most active-minded holiday, because it is the one where people evaluate their lives, and plan and resolve to take action. Common of all resolutions is that on the first day of the year people take their values more seriously," said Lt. Col. Ronald Morris, the deputy commander of Camp Atterbury, Ind., a training site dedicated to training Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers prior to deployment.
"Soldiers live these values, and commitment to service and country every day," Morris said. "Not just New Year's Day; Soldiers know the words loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. They understand what these values truly mean and what it means to live up to them."
Living up to New Year's resolutions doesn't have to be a lofty goal. Many Americans choose something common to improve on, such as losing weight, becoming active or quitting a bad habit.
"The most common New Year's resolutions are to lose weight and get in shape, spend more quality time with loved ones, quit smoking, get organized, travel more and reduce debt," Morris said. "Experts agree that you should have clear, concise and easy-to-implement ideas in mind. Planning is also important."
Capt. Matthew McGowen, with the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office here, said that many Soldiers at the beginning of each year resolve to change how they reduce stress in their daily lives.
"It really comes down to stress and what we do to relieve it," McGowen said. "A negative stress reliever, such as smoking or drinking, never improves your overall well-being. Things like exercise and dieting obviously do a better job relieving stress, and you're keeping yourself healthy too."
McGowen recommended a quid pro quo method for developing a New Year's resolution. "Pick something you don't like doing, like smoking, and replace it with something positive," he said. "Every time you have the urge to commit that negative action, immediately do something else. In the case of smoking, try something that will keep your mind occupied, like going for a quick jog or solving a brain teaser."
Getting in shape may be one resolution, but trimming the fat from financial expenses is a huge goal for Americans because of current economics. Capt. Michael Dick, a financial officer at Camp Atterbury, said that Americans can resolve to be more responsible with their money while still enjoying the fruits of their labors.
"I still think people should go out to dinner and shop and things like that, but they need to prioritize," he said. "There's nothing wrong with spending money and having fun, but you have to be responsible. Think about starting a retirement fund. Establish an emergency fund and create a budget for the new year. Contribute at least 10 percent of your pay to a savings plans, plus another 10 percent to the emergency fund. That's definitely showing financial discipline."
Dick said that preparedness is a solid resolution for planning for the rest of the years ahead.
"You never know what's to be expected next year, so you have to prepare for any type of curve life throws at you," he said. "If you get into a bind, at least you have a contingency."
Resolving to relieve stress doesn't have to revolve solely around physical or financial fitness, however. For Camp Atterbury Military Police Officer Spc. Tiffany Hempstead, a stress-free 2009 involves her friends and a video game called World of Warcraft.
"My resolution is to get to level 80 with my Ork Death Knight," Hempstead said. "I know it sounds dorky, but it's nice to feel like a kid for New Years."
Some even resolve to stop making resolutions. "I'm not making any resolutions, at least, not this year," said Maj. Dave Rader, Camp Atterbury's airfield commander. "I'm looking to improve myself all the time, so I don't need New Year's for that. Improving myself should be constant, not seasonal."
While many resolve to make individual goals, some agree that commitment to others yields the greatest results.
"We need to constantly ask ourselves, 'How can we improve someone's life, at least one per day''" asked Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony L. Edwards, the command sergeant major for the 205th Infantry Brigade here.
"What can we do for each individual Soldier and civilian for the next year' If I had to decide, I would have others resolve to make an impact on at least one new person, civilian or Soldier, everyday."
(Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III serves with the Camp Atterbury Public Affairs Office.)