Why are resolutions so difficult to keep? Why did we ever start making them in the first place? Did you know that as few as 8% of people who set New Year’s resolutions keep them?
I really liked the idea of making — and keeping — New Year’s resolutions. I love the idea of taking stock and looking toward what will be in the next year. But New Year’s resolutions began to feel separate from who I really am and what I am wanting to accomplish. There is a list of them floating around. You may be familiar with the classics — losing weight, getting fit, stopping a bad habit like smoking.
Our tradition of making resolutions comes from ancient Babylonia and Rome. In ancient Babylonia, people wanted to be sure to return borrowed objects and get out of financial debt. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor. Romans celebrated the god Janus who looked forward to the coming year and back to the year just passed. For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future.
If making a resolution starts from a place of lack, then every time I think of my resolution, or work on it, won’t I remind myself of a deficit in my character? Won’t I remind myself of being less than, of being unworthy?
When you are wanting to master something, which helps you more — looking at what you have left to accomplish or seeing how far you have come?
There we are.
In any journey, it is pivotal to assess how far you have traveled. On a road trip, you gauge your progress by the miles traveled. Seeing how far you have come, how many things you have mastered gives one energy for the rest of the journey.
Perhaps it is the religious connection with resolutions that sets people up for failure. It is my belief that when one starts by defining oneself as lacking, it is really quite difficult to move to worth. Much of our religious history has taught us that we are not enough. Making resolutions in this context makes success that much harder. You are much less likely to work toward something, wouldn’t you agree, if every time you think about it, you remind yourself of how unworthy you are?
Growth usually happens incrementally. Evolution happens in steps. So wouldn’t the best way to approach intentionally making improvements in your life, or in yourself, be to make an adjustment? And, wouldn’t it be more fun if there is a little whisper of the positive to encourage you?
Thank you to Darren Hardy for the kernel of this concept. You will also find it familiar if you have ever been told the Fable of the Grain of Rice. The longest journeys are made up of single steps. The smallest pieces come together to make the biggest picture. Our efforts do add up.
I have never sailed, but the visual that jumps into my mind is an exquisite ship of old, perhaps a pirate ship chasing another vessel at the great speed of 8 knots. The sail is hoisted; it fills with wind and glides toward its target.
What I love about this way of thinking is that it requires me to not only stay focused on my desired destination, but also requires that I assess how I am progressing toward it. This process is a journey, not an exercise in success or failure. A black and white process lets me off the hook too easily. Quitting is less of an option because the exercise is judging progress. When you know it will be a journey of some length, marking progress becomes the next step, the next required activity — not arriving. Bigger projects or greater growth take longer than a day or a week. If you are correcting your course, the changes can be subtle yet achieve a great deal over time.
If I were sailing across an ocean, judging how far I have come would be right in front of me every moment. Most of us are growing things or building skills that are less straight forward. Judging where you are on your journey is still vital.
My vision is building an online presence and community that offers people ways to live healthier that are also kinder to our planet. It is my role to inspire people to the certainty that we have all that we need to heal ourselves and the planet.
Sure, building a successful online community is a large undertaking, but I can write a few thought-provoking paragraphs today, can’t I? Of course I can. I can grow my email list a bit every month? Yes, I can do that too.
When you think of what you are wanting to create or master as a journey, motion becomes your partner. Now my journey is fluid and allows me to respond to all of the factors involved. How can you know every step already? And, how can you predict what wonderful support will show up for you on your way?
Do you assess your progress over time? What is it about human nature that we only look forward to see where it is we need to go? Perhaps it was just my nature.
So now I look back to see how far I have come. When I hiked Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon National Park, tracking my progress was built in to the hike. There is a rest house at 1.5 miles & 3 miles, then Indian Gardens is a midway point. The points of reference are different for every journey.
When I completed hiking the Grand Canyon, I felt incredible — unstoppable. The canyon was epic. Awesome. Beautiful. Magnificent. What I gained is the absolute belief that I can plan and succeed at whatever project I choose. What if this were how we kept resolutions?
What is your next journey? All you have to know is the next step. Take it.
Be well 🙂
Post Blog Script: Read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy to gain more on the concept of the power of making small, cumulative changes.
Photo Credits: Frances Brundage & A.M. Beaulieu