What’s the Resolution on that?


When I was younger, I used to think making New Year’s resolutions was for suckers. My thought process went like this: 99% of the time resolutions are broken within days (or at best, weeks) of being made, so what was the point? Shouldn’t you just always be resolved to do the things you know you should? My approach has become a bit more nuanced these past few years, and now I embrace the New Year as a time for re-examination, re-direction, and yes, re-solution.

The word resolve is a fascinating one. If you look up the modern meaning, you’ll see it’s mostly about breaking things down so as to come to a decision that, when acted upon, improves on the current situation. For example, some interpretations revolve around moving from dissonance to consonance, others talk about elimination of a pathological state. Its sister word, resolution, is equally interesting, in that it adds the dimension of degree of detail (as in, the resolution of an image or scientific instrument). Back in the day, resolve meant to dissolve or melt. In other words, breaking down to such a degree of detail that all gross level form is eliminated. When you just look at the surface form of the word it means “to solve again,” implying that something has gone amiss, and moving forward, a course correction is necessary. All of these meanings include a subtle yet distinctly important concept: by breaking things down into their basic building blocks, we’re able to remove restrictions and obstructions that have built up over time, rebuilding things as they once were and should be. When applied to one’s Self, resolutions are all about removing the barnacles that have collected and are obscuring your ability to be the one true you.

In our household, it’s become a bit of a tradition to use this time of year to do a “hard reset.” As the character Roy in the old Britcom The IT Crowd used to say at any sign of technical trouble, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” That’s what we do, we take this time to quite literally detach, reflect, redirect our attention, and yes, resolve to do a few things. The resolution (detail) of these resolutions (decisions to act) is deliberately coarse, but we only do this very high-level direction setting infrequently. The expectation is that these coarse goals will naturally lead to finer-grained ones as we progress through the year.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I’ve spent the last year or so focusing on awareness, listening, and mindfulness. In a way, all of these concepts are about continuously resolving, with high resolution, to be present. They are quite valuable for making sure you do not get too caught up in the distant past or far future, and also for training your brain to remain focused on a goal. However, occasionally, one must step outside the flow of life, lift one’s head and look to the horizon to make sure one is on course. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are about for me.

To make it concrete, you can think about it this way. Every moment, you resolve to be present in that moment. Every day, you resolve what you intend to accomplish for that day. Every year, you set goals for the year. You can add in weeks, months, decades, and any other time scale you wish — the same principle applies. Resolutions happen on a continuous and continual basis, at varying degrees of detail and granularity.

My resolutions for this year are private to me, but I will share one glimpse into them as it relates to this blog. My guiding principles for 2015 include: Simplicity, Discipline, Gratitude, Generosity, Compassion, Honesty, Truth. Initially, I had set some goals around blogging for the year, but as I applied these principles and was honest with myself, I was going to have a hard time meeting those goals while also meeting some other, more important goals, and keeping my life simple. I’m not saying I’ll stop blogging, just that I won’t be blogging nearly as much as I had originally hoped. With any luck, my occasional posts will be more packed full of goodness. 🙂

Cheers, Peace, and Happy New Year!