Woodward & Maple: resolving to make better decisions

Now that the wrong sizes, wrong colors and well-intended but wrong presents are returned, gift cards redeemed and house guests finally back in their homes, we can focus on more pressing matters. While popping the cork in celebration of a new year may top the list, it’s that very list, and others like it, that compete for our attention. Pick up a newspaper, scan a favorite website or watch any late night gabfest and there they are, the ubiquitous lists recalling the previous 12 months – worst trends, best restaurants, top newsmakers – or predicting what we’ll wear, how we’ll furnish our homes and where we’ll travel in 2015. Perhaps this proliferation of lists is the impetus to grab the laptop or, if you’re like me, reach for paper and pencil, and make lists that, we hope, will lead to a better year than the one soon relegated to the history books.

Better, of course, is open to interpretation. And these resolutions, many of which can become empty promises before even the first significant snowfall, take many forms. We hope for greater prosperity, more success at work, and the will to keep fit. The list is long and its creation is made from only the best of intentions. But best intentions, as history shows, can go asunder.


I don’t make resolutions per se but I do post a few “reminders” as I call them – big on concept, marginal in their detail – on the corkboard in my office. The list quickly gets buried, though, under other postings, only to be uncovered in the months ahead when a quick review shows minimal progress. So I rewrite the list, post it again and … you get the picture.

My exercise is one in futility not because I don’t have stamina to accomplish these goals. Rather, it’s the list’s lack of clarity that is a barrier to success, says Karin Katz Sherman, a certified life coach from West Bloomfield with a degree in sociology from Michigan State University. She also writes the popular blog, buddhabarbie.com, where she advises readers on achieving greater self-awareness.

When making resolutions, Katz Sherman recommends only very specific items accompanied by a plan. Getting organized is a worthy goal, for example, but the chances of success are greater when we include a “to-do list.” “Determine how you’ll get organized. Write down that you’ll buy 10 baskets or organizers … and by what date. You need a strategy … structure is important.”

Curious as to why we even bother to make personal or business resolutions, Katz Sherman explains, “This is our version of a report card for the past year, of what worked, what didn’t [and what we hope to change].” Self-reflection, she says, is key.


A popular resolution, especially after a season of celebrating, is to get physically fit. “Weight is a tough one and [setting out to lose weight] can’t be done on its own,” she says. Again, the need for a strategy.

George Shaouni, Jr., is a certified personal trainer at Powerhouse Gym in Troy. His advice, like Katz Sherman’s, is to set realistic, short term goals. “Don’t tell yourself ‘I’ll workout every day.’ Or expect to lose a dramatic amount of weight in a short period.” Smaller goals are more attainable, Shaouni says, “and when you reach one goal you’ll be motivated to focus on the next.”

Failure for new gym-goers, according to Shaouni, comes from focusing on the all-but impossible task of “changing their lives 100%.” Instead, he encourages his clients – I train with him four days a week – to select one or two habits to slowly change.

I’ve not entirely kicked my taste for sweets and bread and white rice. When I do, however, swap dessert for fruit after dinner or add quinoa to my salads, I feel the difference from even these smallest of steps.

This year I’m resolving to give whole wheat pasta a try.

Ed Nakfoor is a Birmingham-based retail and public relations consultant. He is also a Birmingham resident. Contact him at [email protected]

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