The one resolution you can't live without

Eat less. Work out more. Find a new job. Do more community service. Call your mother. Improve your cooking ...

Goals like these all seem so simple when in a list, don't they? Well geez, if it's this easy, let's throw a few more into the mix -- you know, big ones! Like, broker world peace. Go on tour with the Stones. Split the atom ...

Ah, if only it were that easy. Hell, even the EASY ones aren't that easy, especially when you set out to do all six 10 32 at once. Yet every year, at some point after Christmas and before Groundhog Day, we get it into our heads that we are Superpeople capable of achieving anything we set our minds to, because by God, it's a new year and thus a new life.

This delusion, boys and girls, is what leads to RESOLUTIONS. Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves without including accountability. They get us all excited for a few weeks before we start to fumble, get scared, and give up completely until the next ball drop when the cycle begins again.

Every year I wonder why this happens. And for the first time, I think I might see why. You see, there's a critical split in the resolution process. On one hand, hope is VITAL. We've all gotta believe the best of ourselves, and we all need to look toward a richer future. Stretch goals help us grow and learn more about the world and our own potential. Hope keeps us going AND keeps us fulfilled along the way.

On the other hand, though it's a new year, it is NOT a new life altogether. Our circumstances might change, sure. Situations will vary. Decisions and dreams evolve. If everything remained constant, in fact, I'd fear for the depth of your life.

But YOU and YOUR life -- your gifts, your personality, the fundamental elements that make you who you are -- have not really shifted. I'm the same person on Dec. 31 as I am on Jan. 1. So why would I behave as if I am literally a new woman? (The old one's not half bad!)

Too many people approach resolutions as a complete 180, rather than as gradual changes built on a solid foundation. And it only worsens when folks don't have the solid foundation to begin with, and strive to build one from the wrong end.

The good news is, I think the answer is as close as the dictionary. Let's look for a moment at some of the definitions (yes, plural) of resolution:

a: the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
b: the act of answering : solving
c: the act of determining
d: firmness of resolve
e: the point in a literary work at which the chief dramatic complication is worked out

Now let's put these to the big, broad, general idea of "resolutions" that govern our lives, commercials, and blog posts this time every year:

a: Take your big goals/dreams and break them down into simpler, tactical steps. This is strategic planning for the soul.

b: Answer whatever questions have nagged you all year. Look inward, seek professional help, etc. -- whatever it takes to solve the riddle of why you're not feeling like your best or maximum self.

c: Determine which goals/dreams come first. Prioritize accordingly, and don't worry about achieving them all in one calendar year.

d: Be strong, comrade! You can do it! Stick to your guns! Hold yourself to a worthy standard, but remember to forgive yourself too. Any progress is good progress, even on an adjusted timeframe.

e: There will come a day when you achieve your goal. Might not be in the exact way or time you planned (in fact, will almost certainly not be), but it WILL come. And if that doesn't take the pressure off you, I don't know what will. (Red wine perhaps?)

A final note: At the bottom of the Merriam-Webster page for resolution, it says "Synonyms: COURAGE." And on the Visuwords graph for resolve, it links directly to PURPOSE.

We all need both of these all year, each month, every minute of our lives. Without them, no dream or vision can be fully realized, no matter how often we write them down.

So maybe the question we should ask this New Year's is not how much weight to lose or which job to pursue. Rather, are we brave enough? Are we strong enough? Do we know enough about who we are and what we can do?

And maybe, just maybe, answering those questions will be enough for 2009.

Photo by carf