Erin McHugh, is a former publishing executive and author of more than twenty books of trivia, history, children’s stories, and more. Her latest titles include: One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better, The L Life: Extraordinary Lesbians Making a Difference and Coffee, Tea, or Kool-Aid: Which Party Politics Are You Swallowing?
I’m suspicious of them. I put them in the same category as diets: in the main, they’re doomed from the start, with a hefty chaser of guilt and self-recrimination.
“But you’re the author of ONE GOOD DEED!” you may be thinking. “You set out to do something good every day for a whole year!” Well, true. But first of all, I was clever enough to start my journey on my birthday, which falls dead in the middle of the summer, so it wasn’t like starting a diet Monday morning. And my mission was different. I wasn’t trying to change who I was – I was trying to discover who I was, in a way. When you tell yourself you’re going to make big changes, well, that’s when the trouble starts, if you ask me. You get resentful, you bite off more than you were prepared to chew. Before long, you hate everything about your resolution, and now you’re mad at yourself for the torture you’ve inflicted.
But it’s not too late to amend your plan, even though we’re a few days into the New Year. You can renegotiate the resolution (or diet). Instead of saying, “This year I’m going to make big changes,” how about, “This year, I’m going to do a little better, try a little harder.” Just make more of an effort, be more mindful. For example: Speak up when people spew hate. Give someone a second chance. Turn around, go back, and offer to help. Forgive. There are a billion ways to do a good deed. Every one of them makes you a better person.
Small is fine. Small and constant is life-changing. And that’s what a resolution is all about.
As I travel around talking to people about ONE GOOD DEED, I’m often asked how I felt when my year of deed-doing ended. And I say that as corny as it sounds, it made me feel new again.
As in, New Year. Have a happy and healthy one.
Also read Erin McHugh’s article on The Huffington Post: “Why I’m Resolute Against Resolutions.”
One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better by Erin McHugh (Abrams Image, 2012) is available now wherever books are sold.