I feel like I am being bombarded with the message that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. I even shared an article on my Facebook page recently titled “10 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep.” I shared it because I liked the sentiment behind the resolutions the writer suggested, but in reflection I push back against the title of the article because it implies that there are resolutions you can’t keep. I believe any resolution can be kept, and I want to begin explaining why by looking at the definition of the word resolution.
In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, there is a long list of different definitions for resolutions, but the ones that are applicable to the way we use it in the New Year include:
- The act or process of resolving
- The act of determining
- Something that is resolved
To dig deeper, there are also a number of definitions for the word resolve but the relevant one is:
- To reach a firm decision about
Thus, a resolution, whether it is made in January or June, is simply the act of reaching a firm decision. So what is all the fuss about? How can a firm decision not work? Something is firmly decided and it is done. Right?
Not always, but does that have anything to do with the resolution – or does it have more to do with the people making the resolution?
January hits and we suddenly feel empowered to change everything we don’t like about our lives. We embark upon ridiculous and unsustainable diets and fitness routines, and two months later, when we’ve fallen back into our usual ways, we say, “Ah well, resolutions never last…” And, then the next time we resolve to eat healthy and exercise (whether in January or June), we do the exact same thing.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s very relevant here: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
The key to keeping your resolutions is doing things differently. The yogic practice of svadhyaya, which is commonly translated as “self-study,” offers a great place to start. Begin by asking yourself important questions like these ones:
- When have I been unsuccessful in holding to firm decisions I have made in the past? And, why?
- When have I been successful in holding to firm decisions I have made in the past? And, why?
- How much change is it realistic for me to take on at this point in my life?
- What are the most important changes I want to make?
- Am I able to see the value in taking small steps towards where I want to be?
- Who are the people in my life that I can ask to support me in the changes I want to make?
Humans are creatures of habit, and breaking your habits requires more than the excitement and sense of renewal that comes with the New Year. It requires reflection, honesty and patience.
A decision – whether to eat well, exercise regularly or spend more time with family and friends – is never made only once. And, being honest with yourself about how challenging it is to make the same decision day-in and day-out will allow you to recognize and better prepare to face the challenge ahead.
The tradition of sharing our hopes for the New Year is a beautiful one and I would hate to see it lost to the propagation of the idea that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. Instead, let’s collectively acknowledge the reflection, honesty and patience required to keep New Year’s Resolutions and deeply celebrate the human instinct to make change in times of renewal.
As an addendum to this post, I have written quite a bit in the past about how the more regularly and consistently you commit to a decision, the less frequently you have to make it. If you are interested in learning more about the idea of consistency building commitment, please read my blog posts that address the yogic practice of tapas:
Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov