A new year is upon us, bright and shining and…okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. As I type these words the sky is actually overcast, and the occasional snow flake winds its way to the ground like a lost bird’s feather..

Self improvement is important. Though the notion of New Years Resolutions gets a little trite after it runs through the usual mill of celebrity buzz and self-help gurus, at the end of the day, wanting to better ourselves is one of those things that sets us apart from the rest of the animal world. There are times in our lives where we recognize a need for change and intentionally strive to make necessary adjustments.

A recent Forbes article claimed that only 8% of Americans actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. The reason? Resolutions tend to be grandiose, big-bucket assertions that are far too daunting to keep on top of. The key is to keep things tangible, specific. Make goals that are bound by rational, achievable metrics. Instead of resolving to “get in shape,” resolve to “go for a morning walk every day” or hit up a yoga, crossfit, or spin class twice a week. The more specific the assertion, the easier it is to gauge its success.

I keep a journal. A hand-tooled leather one, which means it’s really fancy and gets placed where other people can see it and ooh and ahh over its magnificence. Inside are several specific resolutions I made this year – influenced by events that had a profound effect on me. In the past, I used to resolve to simply be a better person (nice and ambiguous and easy to deflect). This year, I opted for specific changes to my everyday habits.

For the New Year, I’ve resolved to: stop and listen when someone is speaking to me, to make eye contact when I shake hands, to pick up a book and read in the morning instead of surf the internet, to be in the moment when I’m spending time with my daughter or helping out at her school. I suppose all of these could be filed under “be a better person”, but now that they’re set out in front of me, as specific habits, I have something to work with.

So make your resolutions. Resolve to be resolute about them. But make sure they’re specific and accessible. Avoid the grandiose. It’s the small, meaningful things that lead to greatness.

Harry Tournemille is a writer and OAC grant recipient living in St. Catharines. He has blogged on behalf of Beyond Montessori School, a holistic, community-oriented school located near the downtown core in St. Catharines.  The BMS curriculum is enriched with world music, visual arts, French, phys ed, children’s yoga, eco workshops, peace projects and so much more.