Over the years, I have committed to weight losing, yoga practicing, marathon training, good deed doing, daily meditating, and letter writing (just to name a few of my past resolutions). In general, I am strong, committed, focused, and determined. Despite that, behavior change is extremely hard. It is interesting to note which aspects of past resolutions have become part of how I currently live. Did I adopt those practices on a regular basis as a result of the past resolution? I am not sure. What I do know is resolutions have been important to the way I actually live.
Why make a New Year’s resolution at all?
I believe in New Years’s resolutions. I believe in fresh starts, clean slates, and forgiveness (of both ourselves and others). That all seems wrapped up in New Year’s resolutions to me. It makes sense to use the New Year (or any time, really) to take stock, set goals, and make positive changes. It can be argued that resolutions without action are not worth the oxygen it takes to tell people what you intend to do. That being said, I think there is power in setting our sights and going for it. Resolution making is an opportunity for reflection. It is valuable to consider how your current life is going and to right the ship when necessary. New Year’s resolution making in that context can be far more meaningful than an empty promise that is not even remembered by the time March rolls around.
Does making a huge New Year’s resolution inevitably lead to failure?
Setting big goals is sexy. I have been known to set big goals. I start running and I wind up finishing a marathon. I decide to go to graduate school and wind up getting a PhD. I start practicing yoga and I wind up completing a 90 day Bikram yoga challenge. Goals and resolutions are similar in that way. Setting your sights high can be motivational. I tell everyone when I make a big resolution. I never want to be a quitter, or look lazy, or fall short, so I keep going and get it done. It is an accountability thing. Ultimately, I think it is about skin in the game. When I make a big resolution, I feel like I have more to win by success and more to lose by failure. There is an adrenaline high to success. Deciding what feels motivational, versus too big to even start, is an important piece of the resolution puzzle.
Is there a butterfly effect to making a New Year’s resolution?
I am a walking contradiction when it comes to resolutions. My tendency to make big resolutions flies in the face of my understanding that a small action can have big impact. I think there might be a butterfly effect to a New Year’s resolution. The butterfly effect has been explained using the theoretical example that the distant flapping of a butterfly’s wings can bring about a future hurricane. A small change in an initial condition can produce huge change in the future. Consider this scenario. Taking a different route to work may make you arrive at work earlier. Arriving at work earlier may allow you to complete a task more quickly and thoroughly. Completing a task more quickly and thoroughly may be noticed by your boss. Your boss may give you a raise during your next performance review. A small change. A huge result.
What if this year I simply resolve to drink more water?
I think I will resolve to drink more water this year. In my mind’s eye I see the impact. I drink more water. I am less hungry. I lose weight. I have more energy. I exercise. I feel stronger. I am more positive. I am more productive. I read more. I write more. I am kinder to others and to myself. (I could definitely continue riffing on the positive impact of drinking more water.)
I have a list of things I am doing to move in the direction of my heart’s desire. On the wellness front, I am running. On the writing front, I am blogging more frequently and writing a newsletter. On the spiritual front, I have found a yoga app and am practicing in our living room. On the family and friend front, I will continue to maintain and strengthen my ties. In the midst of all of this, I will drink more water. Perhaps the butterfly effect of water drinking will bring a hurricane of positivity to my life.