‘Tis the Season for Resolutions

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties. – Helen Keller

I’ve been browsing the New Year Resolution (NYR) internet web pages out of curiosity. There is all kind of health, wealth and spiritual advice out there. There are 10 resolutions for a healthier you, 29 resolutions for a wealthier you, 100 resolutions on ways to improve your life, 15 resolutions on how to keep your resolutions, etc. There are online classes, gurus and consultants who will help you stick to it; and blogs galore with personal insights for success. ‘Tis the season for resolution.

But I don’t buy it. I learned long ago when I quit smoking that there is no actual barrier or boundary which distinguishes one day from another. There is no magical transformative moment, no auspicious date to quit smoking; or any special charm that exists between December 31 and January 1 that makes personal transformation less demanding or less difficult. Without a calendar or clock how could you ever tell one from the other? And it’s not like we can in fact cast the old year behind us and start anew. Our habits and history come with us into the new day and the new year. So the notion of a NYR is anathema to me. The expectations inherent in any NYR are more often a formula for disappointment and discouragement than for success. I only ever kept one resolution anyway: to make no more resolutions. That has worked well for me.

Because I only finally quit smoking when we started a family (May 27, 1975). That moment was momentous. Everything changed. I didn’t just decide/resolve to quit. My whole identity, my priorities and perspective changed. There is a significant difference in that kind of transformation. It’s not a matter of will, resolve or even of choice. I’ve been told it is often similar with addicts of any kind. Kicking any habit is more a process of becoming a different kind of person. It often involves a critical or quantum shift; and I should imagine that taking on new habits is similarly a process of becoming a different kind of person rather than choosing to act differently. It can happen at the end of May or the beginning of July or the middle of April. One day is pretty much the same as any other day, except for what we do with it.

That’s why I like the quote from Helen Keller. In classic Buddhist fashion she suggests that we are in control of our own sense of self. We can define how we see ourselves and how we see the world. Is it a dark place, or a place full of light and grace? Do I laugh and sing and dance, or do I mope around? Am I afraid or intrigued? Ms. Keller strikes me as someone who speaks from experience. She certainly could have been a different kind of person than she became. I imagine it required great strength of character to overcome her host of difficulties; not just willpower.

So as this season of NYR’s comes around I am once again resolved not to make any. Instead I will continue to embrace each day with wonder and awe and curiosity. As I write this, January 2017 is right around the corner; full of 31 days (and nights). I have great expectations and wonder what January 13th will be like. It’s a Friday.

Enjoy – Greg