Optimism. Hope. New beginnings. Change. As we enter a new year, we seek opportunities to leave the foibles and missteps of 2018 behind, to wipe the slate clean and live lives more aligned with our values and callings. Some of us make resolutions to hold ourselves accountable. We commit to being healthier, more patient, and more fiscally responsible. Some of us pledge to break bad habits, to have more fun, or to travel more. With determination and confidence, we resolve to make positive changes in our lives that we believe will inevitably result in us being happier, more fulfilled, and generally improved. Some of us succeed, more of us fail, and others of us forget our intentions by the time we go back to work. Much has been written about the unsuccessful new year’s resolution (apparently only 4% of Americans achieve their goals). This year, I find myself wondering how much our success in setting and achieving our plans hinges on how we define ‘resolution’. What if we shifted our mindsets from making firm decisions and formal proclamations, to making progress, seeking clarity, and freeing ourselves from self-judgment and anxiety? How would this change our success rates? How would it change the way we move into 2019 and future new years?
Resolution | noun | rezəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n
Most Common Definition in a New Year: firm decision to do or not do something; a formal expression of opinion, will or intent
Alternate Definitions: progressing from dissonance to consonance; the process of making distinguishable the individual parts of an object; the process of finding an answer to, making clear or understandable; from Latin resolvere: to loosen, to release
From Dissonance to Consonance
2018 was a hard year for me, as it was for many others and for the world at large. Many of my plans and goals failed to come to fruition, and there was often intense dissonance between my work and my values, between my understanding of the world and the way I saw the world presenting itself. As I get older, there is also increasing conflict between what I imagined my life would look like and how it actually looks. I am working on being gentler with my expectations for myself, but more importantly I am learning to recognize the sources of tension, the forces that prevent me from feeling consonance at work, on my commute, with people I love, with strangers, and even in my home. In this definition of ‘resolution’, I appreciate the word progression because moving from dissonance to consonance is a perpetual journey that requires a simultaneous ability to sense when elements of life and self have fallen out of sync and an ability/desire to do something about it. It is far easier to settle for cynical rationalizations (i.e., “this is just the way the world works” or “nobody can have everything they want” or “work isn’t supposed to be easy”) than it is to make order out of chaos or to take the steps necessary to achieve harmony between who we want to be and who we are, how we want to be and how we are. True consonance often feels far away, unachievable, or unrealistic; seeking it might feel difficult, overly time-consuming, and even selfish. These feelings are real, and I believe that we deserve to walk, breathe, and exist in this world as our truest, most authentic selves. We each have gifts to offer the universe that are useless when unacknowledged or unused. I also believe that we each hold a piece of Truth that the world needs, that if undiscovered, hoarded, or buried will limit our communal progress toward peace, justice, and enlightenment. In 2019, I resolve to embrace my gifts and to courageously strive for progress toward consonance in all areas of my life. I resolve to accept and live as the person I was born to be and to listen deeply for discord, appreciating every note in the sheet music of my life and striving for ultimate harmony.
Microscopes enhance our ability to see objects by both making things appear larger and increasing the amount of detail we can see. The latter effect is ‘resolution’ and this year, I find myself considering what in myself, in my life, and in my world, I am missing by not zooming in to distinguish the parts that comprise them. Imagine a microscope that could not only show our minuscular physical components but could also resolve our emotions, spirituality, beliefs, and mindsets. What would a person looking through such a microscope see? What would you want them to see? What would you be afraid of them seeing? As we look ahead to a new year, what parts of ourselves do we want to magnify, and which parts do we want to let go or destroy? Which parts are hardest for us to see or acknowledge? What do we not know about what is within us and around us? How do we get closer to knowing and seeing more clearly?
As I think about my parts and the process of accepting and distinguishing them, I feel everything from immense gratitude to deep fear. When I take the time to zoom in, I mostly like what I find. I am a compassionate, open, ever-growing person who makes every effort to make the world a better place. Yet I, like everybody else, possess flaws, insecurities, secrets, and personality traits that I would prefer others not see or experience, that I would prefer not to see or experience. I wonder if these parts are as important to me being me as the more appealing parts. I also wonder what I would discover if I used the microscope to look even deeper into these less flattering segments of my being. It is easier to accept the whole of a flaw than it is to face the myriad, often painful or confusing, experiences that formed them. In 2019, I resolve to distinguish all my parts, to notice how they converge and conflict and to better understand who I am and what I need to do to be closer to the whole person I strive to be.
As humans, we are programmed to solve problems and develop solutions. As such, we are good at making new year’s resolutions and perhaps not as apt at finding them. Think about that. When there is something that we aren’t happy with, we commit to making changes, to a set of actions that will improve our future. What we often miss is the profound, potentially healing, opportunity to find resolutions to what has happened within and around us in the past. Understandably, we want pain, suffering, and bewilderment to remain in the old year, to detach from us and our lives. Unfortunately, if we cannot find clarity, understanding, or answers to what has gone wrong in the past, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes and reproduce our disappointments. In seeking and finding resolutions, we gain the perspective and often-needed closure to move forward in more sustainable and self-affirming ways. In 2019, I commit to better understanding my past and to finding resolutions before making them.
Loosening & Releasing
The word ‘resolution’ is derived directly from the Latin verb resolvere, which translates as "to loosen, unyoke, undo, explain, relax, set free, make void, dispel.” I am struck by how many of these translations stand in stark contrast with traditional new year’s resolutions that force us to make firm decisions and to promise positive intentions. This tension represents for me the core of how I want this year to be different. Instead of tightening and intensifying the expectations I set for myself, I resolve to loosen the reigns and allow myself to relax. Instead of steadfastly holding on to what society or others think I should be doing, I resolve to release myself from the stress and pressure of other people’s burdens and to do what feels good and true and right. In 2019, I seek to dispel the myths I have written about myself and the world. I resolve to set myself free, to making progress rather than achieving perfection, to being fully and harmoniously me because that person is enough and is worth it.
These are my new year’s resolutions.