Many years ago, I was working for a psychologist I didn’t particularly like because of the “vibes” he gave out when interacting with others, giving the impression that he was far above them because of his book-learning and/or life experience. I can certainly agree that he had much knowledge in his field, but for him to flaunt his credentials for doing the kind of work he did was to me like hearing one flaunt the fact that he won the award for being the most humble among all the contenders. His evaluation of me was that I was like a fish in a fishbowl (my life was an open book?), but he never gave me any useful advice about how to jump out!
None of us are perfect. We can all use a little “sprucing up,” as it were, especially if we believe the opinions of others. However, most of us know how to self-reflect and would be happy enough if we could have just managed to live up to even some of our last year’s resolutions. Now, here we all are again, faced with making another list of things we hope we’ll get to do.
I’ve had more than one conversation so far this year with those who have been pondering the making and keeping of resolutions, from questioning whether or not they are even worth making, to what kind of things should actually be on that list, to how many resolutions one can actually and realistically handle or keep.
Needless to say, there is no one answer to any of those considerations that fits all. And why should there be? No one (well, just about no one) really likes the idea of doing what someone else tells us we SHOULD do because they think it is best. We would immediately think, What about our own ideas of what’s best? (Not that we necessarily always know what’s best for our self, but don’t we want to have that chance to decide?)
From what I’ve gathered, if resolutions don’t get kept, it’s not necessarily because they were not good resolutions or suitable resolutions; it could possibly be because we reached too high without inserting a “stepping stone” resolution in order to eventually reach the higher goals more easily. If someone wants to jump three feet high, they first need to learn how to jump one foot high because that can more easily be achieved. Also, some people oversaturate themselves
with their good intentions. It’s one thing to make up a list for the things you need to do today — mail package, pick up book at library, drop off bag of clothes at the shelter, etc. — but it’s quite another thing to expect yourself to make major changes in your everyday life as you go along from day to day.
Resolutions are kind of like promises, and if you find that you can’t live up to them, you feel you let yourself down. You become disappointed with yourself. You feel you failed. Great way to start
the new year or go through it… collecting those disappointments and failures! No wonder people get frustrated and feel miserable and sometimes are just ready to give up. But if there were some little “trick” or technique that could help people over that “dead resolution” hurdle, perhaps some people would perk back up again.
Well, consider this: When we take on a job, we don’t promise to stay with that job forever, and we can’t even know if we’ll be great at our job, rising above everyone else who works there — but we can make a “commitment” to show up for work every day we have that job, to be dressed appropriately, and to do the things for which we will be paid.
No great big crazy promise; just a firm commitment to show up and do it. (And it never hurts to have a good reason for one’s commitment, like to ensure a paycheck, to pay the rent, to feed the family…)
Making a commitment is not making a big change in your life or forcing yourself into a different habit. When we get married, for instance, or even find our self in a new relationship, we have apparently already decided that we want that relationship. So… we commit to it. If we find that the relationship adds to our life, makes us a better person, a happier person, why wouldn’t we commit to it? We don’t have to force our self to be a different person, to do different things or stop certain things; we simply commit to the relationship and automatically want to make the other person happy. Changes will come more naturally and happily. Adding to your life will be much easier than taking
The word “resolution” sounds like a politician’s promise. No one who has a job forgets to get up and go to work. No one who is in a close relationship forgets that there is someone in that relationship with them. It is no hardship to love that person. You do not have to make new promises every day to stay on track to love that person. You loved, made the commitment to be there, and now it’s just second nature. Commitments are kind of like freeing up your hands when you use a backpack to carry stuff. Promises (resolutions) are kind of like heavy bags that you wish you could put down and not have to carry, like politicians do quite often.
Of course both of those words are just words. But we humans like words: we are happy to use words like thank you and please (the “magic” words) and I love you and any such soft, uplifting or comforting words. We don’t especially like words that seem oppressive or demanding, like must, should, start, stop, and such. So if changing a word now and then can help us in any way, it sure can’t hurt. And isn’t it some kind of progress when we feel happier, and feel less stressed because we are happier, and notice that somehow, in some way, life seems better all over and didn’t really take too much effort
after all, because we ended up doing what we really wanted to do in the first place?
Isn’t that what we would all call progress?
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.