Just about the time people stop asking “How was your Christmas?” they start asking about New Year’s resolutions. But after this year, committing to exercising more or eating better just doesn’t seem to sufficiently acknowledge the bigger picture. We’ve learned a lot about making the most of life, caring about others in tangible ways, appreciating family and friends and, for me, resolutions don’t do that justice.

Phil Potenziano is the superintendent of Brunswick School Department. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilPotenziano and Instagram at Brunswickmesup.

The truth is, resolutions have a pretty unimpressive success rate. According to a survey by Statista, only 4% of people who made New Year’s resolutions in 2018 claimed they kept them. In another study, according to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80% and most lose their resolve by mid-February. If this is true, it’s clear that there is nothing wrong with all of us. The real problem is in the tradition itself.

So, for 2021, I’m adopting a theme for the coming year. Rather than giving up something meaningless (chocolate) or committing to something I know I’ll never do (exercising every day), I’ve decided to think bigger.

Here are some examples of yearly themes: Rather than resolving to give up unhealthy foods, choose the theme of “health.” Rather than resolving to read more or watch less television, choose the theme of “learning.”

When living with a theme, rather than a specific goal, anything you do within the theme, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.

I think my theme for 2021 will be patience: acknowledging what I cannot control and accepting what the universe is telling me.

When I came to Brunswick, I had so many plans – changes, updates, improvements! And when the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans, I was reminded of the importance of the most basic requisites of successful education: creative and committed teachers and students with a real desire to learn and the nimbleness make it happen.

Similar to the concept of a yearly theme, I heard a speaker once talk about having a personal mission statement. Just like businesses measure all their activities, advertising, social media, etc., against their missions, personal mission statements provide a benchmark by which to gauge your decisions. If your mission or annual theme is to be a lifelong learner, which of these endeavors supports your mission better: an evening of “Friends” reruns or a documentary? If your big picture is about more service to others, perhaps you forego that unnecessary purchase and donate the money to the local food bank.

For 2021, I am eschewing New Year’s resolutions.

I still have plans, but for now, I’m focusing on how I can best serve our schools and support students and teachers as we undergo yet another transition. And I’m not asking anyone about New Year’s resolutions, but I will ask them “What’s your mission or theme for your life in 2021?”

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