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By now, over three-fourths of all New Year’s resolutions made for the current campaign have been amended or broken. And this altogether too familiar phenomenon represents just the tip of the iceberg, for our tendency not to finish what we start is not limited to New Year’s resolutions. Statistics from a Columbia University study drive this point home:
Let’s attempt to solve this lack of re-solve problem. The word resolution derives from Latin via the Greek root lusis, to lose. In a literal sense, then, solve means to detach, set loose, or free. Resolve, then, means to detach, set loose or free again and the act of so doing would logically be called a resolution. Considered thusly, a New Year’s resolution would be a setting free of something. But what exactly? Ideally, we would resolve to rid ourselves of the habits and choices that shackle us, weigh us down and keep us from evolving and developing. We would identify barriers to change and opportunities to improve. We would resolve to re-lose our old selves in a continuous, episodic process of renewal.
Sound a bit over the top? Perhaps. But the principle reason we don’t stick to our resolve is that we establish our goals in a vacuum without incorporating our core values and what we truly want and need. Too often, our thinking goes as follows: “What should I do? What is a reasonable or appropriate goal? What is expected of me?” We would be better off asking ourselves: “Who am I? What kind of person do I aspire to be? How do I generate energy?” Because we don’t ask ourselves such questions our resolutions become, in the immortal words of Mary Poppins, like “pie-crust promises – easily made, easily broken.” Only when we establish and pursue our resolutions with the same intensity that, to quote Joseph Campbell, “a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond,” will we generate and harness the energy needed to make the small, incremental changes that culminate in personal dignity and a meaningful life.
How do we accomplish this? Believe it or not, by reading through this essay, you have already begun. You have stopped long enough to listen to what your life is telling you. The secret is not to get stuck there but to move forward by consciously resolving to refine your personal character and behaviors. Hence, make this your resolution for the coming year: “I will begin here; I will begin now.” All other resolutions and goals must sub-serve this larger one or like pie-crust, your self system surely will crumble.