It’s that time of year again. As we head toward the last day of this year and the first day of next year, people are gearing up for their R E S O L U T I O N S. I’ve already heard murmurings of them among my friends, most of them having to do with the fitness they are promising themselves– just after the season of overindulgence we are currently participating in. I don’t like resolutions and I don’t make them. I touched on this a little bit last year, but mostly focused on what I like best about this time of year, which is the reflective nature of the segue between one calendar year and the next. I feel more existential at the New Year than any other holiday and I often imagine that, as the calendar switches over, there is a little click of closure that happens. It’s as if you can put the events, experiences and emotions from one year into a little box that you can gently place upon the shelf of Life for safe keeping and move on to what the next year will bring you for your next little box. I actually find measurements of time, whether small or grand, to be a comforting way to both reign in worry and anxiety as well as celebrate triumph and joy.
But, the problem with resolutions is that you are making a bet on something that hasn’t happened yet, something you haven’t made the choice to actually do yet, and they are a complete psychological set-up. I was having this very conversation with my oldest son in the car just last week and I told him that he won’t likely hear me say the words, “I’m never going to do (fill in the blank) again.” Mind you, this is certainly not said with the righteousness of someone who always does the right thing–quite the contrary, it is said with the realization that never is a really long time and I am a completely flawed human who is not always at the mercy of her better angels. Saying you’re never going to do something ever again, in my opinion, is only setting yourself up to disappoint someone–most likely, yourself. Right? We all know this.
And, the really serious resolutionists not only make the resolution but sometimes spend the days leading up to the day of resolve by cramming every bit of its antithesis into their lives before they make the change. This is best witnessed by the dieters who vow to stop eating terribly on January 1 and lose the 25 pounds, but then spend the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s eating everything in sight and adding on another 20 in the process, even before they even get to the day they are giving it all up. Disappointment almost always sets in before resolve can take hold. In fact, only about 10% of people have kept their New Year’s resolutions a year after they made them.
Resolutions are future-oriented and, of course, the future is something we cannot know with any sort of accuracy because, well, it hasn’t happened yet! Two weeks ago I reviewed Todd Kashdan’s book, Curious? and I highlighted his outlook on present moment living by quoting his statement that the present is the “razor thin moment when we are truly free.” I think that moment of freedom where we can make a choice about who we are and what we will do is better than any resolution because it’s happening all the time. I mean, just stop… think about it. It’s happening right this very moment! And you don’t even have to write it down, mark your calendar or tell a single soul… you just have to do it.
The cinematographer, Louie Schwartzberg, gave a TED talk earlier this year where he talked about his lifelong work in stop-motion photography and showed his short film, Happiness Revealed. The film speaks for itself and I hope that you will take ten minutes out of your day to let it sink it to you, which it will, because it is that beautiful. His elderly narrator speaks lyrically of the gift that is a day and his words resonate with me as we come to the close of a year.
You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you. Today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.
I looked up the word, resolve, and see that one of its synonyms is determination. I like that. Resolutions are, to most people, like punishment whereas determination is like a drive inside ourselves that makes us want to do something important. As we approach the season of resolutions, I think it could be really powerful to consider, instead, that resolve that can come from this very moment. Right here. Right now.
TRY THIS WEEK: Forget resolutions and embrace resolve.