Monday, January 04, 2016

Don't have resolutions; be resolute

Before I even get into it, let's look at what each of those words mean exactly.

Resolution - a firm decision to do or not to do something

Sounds like it's about the "something."

Resolute - admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering
Sounds like it's about the person.

Every year people make New Year's Resolutions. Any they are often empty promises to oneself that fade into obscurity before Valentine's Day (if we're being generous). This is so often the case, that many people joke about other people announcing these platitudes to the world. People even forget and shout the first thing that sounds good before the first Swarovsky crystal touches down atop Times Square. 10... 9... 8... "Uhhhh...ummm..." 7... 6... "My resolution is to..." 5... 4... 3... "Shit, this year I'll...." 2... "LOSE 10 POUNDS!" 1... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

That sounds well thought out and determined, right? We aren't programmed to stop a certain behavior suddenly while humming along and make a sharp change any more than your car wants you to yank the E-brake at 80 mph on the highway. Newton's first law - an object in motion stays in motion. And if that motion is lifting a cheeseburger to your mouth, you're not likely to stop doing it all at once. And certainly not because your drunken reflection in the champagne flute told you to choose that just moments before the imaginary expiration date.

That's what these NYE resolutions are: a last minute decision to to a thing. But being better at life isn't about individual things. It's about all things in aggregate. You are greater than the sum of your parts. However, if you were to skip the resolution to do a thing at an arbitrary time and be resolute about the greater concept (live healthy vs lose weight in 2016) then you are determined and unwavering, and more likely to succeed.

It's less about these dictionary definitions and more about the when of the decision. I get it, we like arbitrary numbers. It feels nicer to start with clean slate and approach a challenge, but these dates are, in fact, arbitrary. More importantly, we shouldn't want to wash away 2015. We've all seen this image:

But do we want 2015 to be erased? Can it be erased? The answer is no to both questions, of course. Our lives are cumulative not approximately 90 individual and isolated years. We learned from 2014 into 2015 and 2015 into 2016 and so and and so forth. The phrase "how do you know where you're going if you don't look back" comes to mind. Our history is responsible for our present. So why get rid of it? And this image isn't discriminate. If we're wiping away 2015, then all of it has to go - even the good stuff. For me, for example, with the weight I gained in 2015, I'd have to shed my new job, the memories of my wedding, all I earned and learned. 2015 was somewhat of a banner year for me and that sounds terrible.

I guess the point is to not focus on some individual thing and make a resolution to do that activity until the novelty wears off and old habits set in. Decide something that's important to you, that matters, that's worth achieving and be resolute. Don't waver. It was my NYE resolution (many years ago) to quit smoking and I failed year after year. In the summer of 2013 I decided to quit (after 22 years). I was sure. I was ready, I was resolute. As of this writing, it's been 896 days since my last cigarette. 

I could be off the mark. Maybe your resolutions will stick. I wish everyone well. Hoping for failure to prove my point isn't my style. I just know that when reading those definitions, despite the root of one being the other, they feel very different.