It’s the last day of the year. It is the time for resolutions to stop smoking, lose weight, be a better person and generally confront all the things we didn’t do last year. I was going through some papers this week and stumbled upon a few of my old ‘lists’ of New Year’s intentions from about 20 years ago. I am a bit embarrassed to say that my list today looks very similar to my list then—more exercise, better diet, more time for reflection and creativity, write my book, and relax. It’s not that I have done nothing in these areas for the past couple of decades, but overall I never seem to be satisfied and I often ‘lose’ whatever ground I seem to gain. To be sure, there are items on the ‘old’ list that have been handled: I don’t smoke and am extremely happy with my life and myself. Nonetheless, I still make my annual ‘list’ and if the past is any indicator, I will probably have the same list next year.
This year I am doing something different. I am going to write my list for 2009 based on my intention that all the items that would normally be on my 2008 list have already been accomplished. In other words, I am going to practice what I preach and ‘come from the future’ in which I have already achieved my 2008 goals and then trust my intention to make it so. For example, what will NOT be on my 2009 list are the usual items relating to exercise and diet (since I will already have a solid fitness routine and my diet will already be moderate and appropriate). Since my first book will have been written, my new list can include something relating to beginning a new book.
The real insight this year is that most of the items on my 2009 list will have little to do with me and a lot more focus on supporting and serving others. I can see from this perspective that in the past my resolutions have been consistently formulated to reinforce all my egocentric ‘I am not okay’ assessments. This is why they never seem to be fulfilled. The ego will always maintain the status quo since any ‘new’ behaviors or patterns will seem to threaten its existence. My New Year’s Resolutions (and maybe everyone else’s) serve to reinforce this ego-centered perspective.
I should hasten to note there is a distinction between these annual gestures toward self-improvement and real commitments. The real commitments pull for sustainable action and are rarely an issue. I suppose this is the same phenomenon that drives most of the ‘self-improvement’ industry—the belief that something is wrong with the way we are and that if we only exert enough ‘willpower’ we can overcome whatever it is that we think will allow us to achieve the desired goal. The fact is that most of the undesired patterns have become an aspect of our ‘way of being’ and the story about who we think we are. Our way of being is for most of us, most of the time, simply a habit—and breaking ‘bad’ habits is rarely accomplished by wishing or wanting to change.
New Year’s Resolutions are mostly wishes. This year I am making them as commitments and affirming that they’ve already been accomplished.