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From resolution to resolute

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions. I enjoy the nostalgic look back at the end of the year to review what has been accomplished, milestones passed, historic achievements and the human interest stories, but that's where my participation in the New Year's "accounting" generally comes to a close. I think my discomfort with resolutions starts with the notion that by their very nature, resolutions imply there's some problem which needs to be solved. This may be true, but why wait until New Year's to take action?

There isn't anything particularly unique about our human condition in the month of January, so while I applaud individual efforts to "fix" whatever's broken, I'm uneasy about why someone is any more likely to succeed after Jan. 1 than the day, week or month prior. This could explain why as we enter February, there's generally little discussion of how much progress has been made on any of those resolutions or whether those actions are still underway. I don't know whether the practice of making New Year's resolutions crosses cultural boundaries, but it occurs to me that this popular American tradition aimed at "fixing" some flaw may be representative of a growing national obsession over "doing" versus "being."

I'd love to see next year's celebrations focus on being, rather than doing. Perhaps as a start we could all resolve to be grateful. Despite being a nation at war, global economic jitters and the year's extreme number of natural disasters, we have a lot to be grateful for. As Americans, we have freedoms and opportunities which most of the world's population will never experience. Our democracy isn't perfect, and one only has to watch one round of this year's debates leading up to the presidential elections to see the ugly side of our political process, but these are freedoms which citizens in countries like Libya, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia are risking their lives for daily. We still have thousands of foreigners seeking entrance into our country for the opportunity to pursue employment or a level of education which they simply can't access in their native country. We are still the land of opportunity.

Next, let's resolve to be positive. We all have our unique life circumstances, whether they involve personal or professional challenges or both. But if there is anything we truly control in our lives it's our attitude. Yesterday may have been the most difficult day you could have imagined - but tomorrow presents an opportunity to take a step forward, to move closer to achieving our goals, to be the best day we've ever had. Don't let today slip away - be positive and use today to make tomorrow even better.

To complement our resolve to be grateful and to be positive, we should also take a moment to be proud. We don't have to exhibit this pride in arrogance, chest-pumping or through outwardly visible expressions. But an important part of maintaining a positive outlook and being grateful for what we have and for what we have achieved involves recognizing the steps we've taken and the progress we've made in our lives. We all touch the lives of others in many ways - whether it's our family, friends, co-workers or a complete stranger who we extended a simple act of kindness or courtesy. Reflect on your own actions, reflect on those you've witnessed by others, be proud of yourself and help others to be proud of themselves as well. Being proud of what we've done contributes to being proud of who we are and gives us the confidence to reach our full potential - the person we can be.

If you've been successful with your New Year's resolutions, congratulations - but if you haven't, give yourself another chance. Be resolute in your efforts, but perhaps take a different approach by being rather than doing. Be grateful for the opportunity you have before you. Be positive in your approach - tomorrow presents the same opportunity you had on January 1st. And be proud - I'm certain you've achieved much in the past year, learned much about yourself and now have a greater chance for success for the experiences you've been through. I'm excited about what 2012 may bring - I plan to be resolute.