By Joe Rector

It’s that special day when people everywhere wake to a new beginning. The first day of a new year is a time when folks reassess their lives and make plans for improvement. I did it as well.

For years I promised myself each January 1 to lose weight. All my life I’ve battled poundage that camps out around my middle. Even as a kid, I’d promise to shed pounds so that a new wardrobe would be required.

I defeated the weight problem my last year in high school and managed to keep it off throughout college. Then Amy and I married, and slowly, but surely, the pounds began to return. The older I grow, the harder the task of losing weight becomes.

These days, I eat healthier than at any other time in my life. We have no fried foods, eat plenty of chicken and fish, and eat out only once a week. I gave up candy bars about four months ago, a major concession in my life. Still, the weight hangs on stubbornly and only illness that shuts down my appetite seems to lead to any weight loss.

I’ve vowed to become healthier through exercising on at least twenty New Year days. I joined a health center and rose at 5:00 a.m. to get a workout completed before going to work. Several years ago, I began running, and before long my addiction to it was as bad as a person looking for his daily fix of some drug. I called what I did a “fat man jog,” but at least my efforts produced results.

Oh, but life is filled with surprises. One incorrect “butterfly” rep while lying flat on a bench blew out a disc in my neck and led to surgery. A blown disc in my back a couple of years later led to another surgery and an end to running.

For years, I promised myself to quit smoking, only to wake up and light up on those first days of new years before my feet hit the floor. It took the passing of both parents and an older brother before I found enough backbone to conquer a smoking addiction.

Making resolutions isn’t something I do any more. A resolution is a promise to reach a goal. Perhaps I’m not as committed as in earlier years; perhaps I realize that such acts are wastes of time and energy. These days, I make attempts to do better, not resolutions. With that in mind, here’s a list of things folks might try to do this year.

Being kinder is the first one. Most of us wrap ourselves so tightly in personal goals and trials that we seldom have time or energy for others. Kindness is simple. It includes speaking to those who aren’t necessarily easy to love. Allowing a driver to merge without cursing or having a conniption is another way. Maybe it comes by offering a hand to someone who is struggling with a project, a serious personal problem, or even financial difficulties.

Each person needs to dream more. Our lives are desperate only to the degree we choose to remain mired in the mud of boredom. Henry David Thoreau once said,

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Dreaming helped this country to become the leader in modern times. It is the thing that opens our lives to possibilities. Our work is to dream first and then work to make them come true. A life with a positive outlook includes an optimism that battles those times of doubts and fears that inevitably come.

Most of all, we all need to play more. Work is good; it pays the bills. However, our destinies have never been only to work and accumulate. I figure that the good lord expects us to enjoy each day we are given, and that means engaging in the things that bring the most joy. Stop working a little earlier each day and just play; be a kid again.

That’s a quick list of hopes for the next year. I won’t resolve to accomplish them, but I’ll sure try my hardest to include them in my life. I hope your 2013 is a good one filled with happiness and fulfillment.