Here we are, not even a week into January, and it’s starting. This is the week of the year when the chatter kicks into high gear: the barrage of emails and articles asking us whether we are sticking to our resolutions.
A few years ago, I learned something crucial, and since then I’ve kept every resolution that I’ve made. It’s so critical, and so obvious, but nobody talks about it.
Well, that’s about to change.
Every expert is quick to point to the statistics to remind us that most of us will fail in our attempts to stick to our resolutions. And each is quick to offer his or her (although, let’s be honest; mostly his) reason why we will fail. Of course, this is just to set us up for the inevitable offer of a new system or program that is guaranteed to help us stick to our resolutions this time. For Real.
For me, this category of advice is like a bad car accident on the highway: I know I should ignore it and keep going, but a part of me can’t help but look. I’m always a little curious to hear what new reason an “expert” gives for explaining why most people fail to stick to their resolutions.
If you stopped to consider what most people say on this subject, and if you thought about it in the context of your actual experience in life, you would realize that most of the reasons offered are simply ridiculous.
In fact, the entire concept of “sticking to” or “keeping” resolutions makes no sense.
The reason why most people fail to “keep” their “resolutions” is that they don’t understand what a resolution is and they don’t actually resolve anything.
Most people make “resolutions” by coming up with a list of things that they want to do or things that they think they should do. Then they blame a lack of willpower or discipline or they think they need bigger or more specific goals.
If this is you, here’s the good news: you’re not lacking in willpower or discipline.
What you’re lacking is a basic understanding of the English language.
Your list of resolutions are not, in fact, resolutions; they are lists of “wants” and “shoulds.”
The key to keeping your resolutions does not lie in having better goal setting strategies, creating accountability groups or building up your willpower.
The key to “keeping” your resolutions is to resolve.
And to start, it helps to understand what the word actually means.
The technicals, for my fellow etymology enthusiasts:
Resolution originates from the Latin resolvere, which means loosen or release.
Practically speaking, all resolutions are rooted in decisions. The first definition of resolution speaks to this:
a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Decide is rooted in the Latin -cide, which means to kill off (it’s the same root as homocide).
When you decide you cut off all other options.
A resolution releases the other possibilities from being in contention.
So, what’s the difference between a decision and a resolution?
Here is my simple formula:
Resolution = Decision + Action
In fact, this is reflected in another definition of resolution:
the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter.
When you resolve, you commit to carrying out your decision.
It’s a 3-step process: Decide. Commit. Resolve.
You’re not just choosing which path you will take; you’re committing to that path and affirming that commitment with your action. And once you start walking down the path, there is no going back. You’ve released the other options. You’ve cut them off.
This is why the concept of “sticking to” or “keeping” resolutions makes no sense. It’s redundant.
If you are beating yourself up today because you already failed to keep your resolutions, relax. You didn’t fail to keep your resolutions; you failed to make resolutions.
Maybe you made a list of wants or shoulds. Or you set goals or intentions, or established outcomes.
Whatever you did, you didn’t resolve.
Of course, the secret is to understand how to resolve. How do you make a real resolution?
That’s another topic for another time. Stay tuned (or… subscribe!)
Don’t just take my word for it. You’re the expert on your own life. Reflect and consider: does this make sense to you based on your experiences?