Like so many people, I used to make New Year's resolutions that barely lasted a week. That's pretty frustrating. Especially when the endless list of difficult tasks includes eating healthier, losing weight, and saving money, but self-discipline is scarce.

So a few years ago, I decided to take a different approach and choose one word to improve a broad spectrum of outcomes. My new regime is much less stressful, because if I don't master the practical application of a word in every aspect of my life, I can carry it into the new year. This year's word is circumspect. According to "The American Heritage" online dictionary, circumspect means: "Heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent."

In recent years, I've become much more circumspect about my looks. Especially, since my age is starting to adjust them and I now have to work so much harder at keeping my appearance together. If you're over 50 like me, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Not only has gravity kicked in where I least want it too, but also my hair seems to have a mind of its own and refuses to stay my chosen color.

In my younger years, I always paid more attention to skills than the mirror, but as I get older I have to spend more time in front of it than I care to. I still prefer not to shell out a bundle of money every week on grooming, but when those dark roots started popping out so frequently, I fell into the bottle. You know the one I'm talking about. It's packaged in a box, which comes in about 5,000 shades.

The only problem was, the more I dyed, the more frequently I'd have to. Until about a month ago, when I finally gave into the snow. I now have a white streak running through the middle of my head. My girlfriends think I'm crazy for letting my age show through, but I think I've earned every gray hair.

Enter this year's favorite word, circumspect.

It used to be that a good figure, a little bit of makeup, and a fabulous haircut were sufficient for a woman's grooming. But, these days, $10,000 is considered cheap for a good set of porcelain veneers to brighten our teeth.

Lifts and tucks on every part of the body and $20,000 breast implants have become the new standard of beauty. But does any woman really need to have every part of her body waxed? Ouch! On a normal day, I'm happy to find two hours a week for a manicure and a pedicure. But all day Saturdays for my hair? I don't think so.

Beauty standards have gotten so high, I just can't keep up and quite frankly, I think some divas are way out of control.

One day, because I hadn't been circumspect enough about my looks before leaving the house, I faced serious consequences. There I was eating lunch at the Reading Terminal and wearing my worst slob suit, when the syndicated TV show "Ambush Makeover" caught me looking so tacky that I never should have even left home. A team of professional stylists, who make their living trolling the streets for the fashion-challenged, busted me. It reminded me why I stayed in radio for so many years, instead of moving into television.

On this particular day, I looked so raggedy, the "Ambush Makeover" team spent an entire day treating me to new hair, makeup, clothes and a hot dinner date with hubby.

My point is this: Because I've always put my brains before beauty, spending that much time and money on my exterior just isn't real to me. And, unless I make my living looking fabulous, I'll always be happy writing behind the scenes. Because, after all - real beauty comes from the inside. *

Fatimah Ali is a regular contributor. E-mail her at fameworksmedia@yahoo.com.