Columnists Features

Why do you make resolutions?

IT is January – that time of year when, ideally, people make resolutions for the new year. It is also that time when, presumably, people reflect on the past year as they make start-of-year resolutions. As to whether the resolutions thus made are realistic, or whether they are in fact fulfilled, is of course another matter. But what is a resolution? Some dictionaries describe it as “a firm decision to do or not to do something”; or “a promise to yourself to do or to not do something”.
Surely there are some things which all of us, regardless of our age, would like to do. Similarly, there are some things each one of us would not like to do. To decide to do or to not do is to resolve. Looked at in the broadest sense, therefore, we all make resolutions each and every day of our lives: what to wear or what not to wear; what to eat or what not to eat.
The difference with making resolutions at the beginning of the year, however, is that, first, you lay the foundation for what you will do in the course of the twelve months; second, you look back at the previous year and use its successes and failures to guide you in the new year; third, you focus on the main actions that will drive your overall vision or dream forward; and fourthly, a chart a route to avoid haphazard decisions and actions.
The trouble with some resolution lists, though, is that they are all about “what I will do” and include nothing about “what I will not do”. It is good to say, “I will work hard to increase my income.” But it is equally important to also say, “I will not use corrupt means to increase my income.” You are on firm ground when you say, “I resolve to pass my exams with flying colours.” But you are on firmer ground when you add: “I will not use illegal means to pass my exams.”
Effective resolution-making has two sides: the “to do” and the “not to do”; the acquisition and the abandonment; the increasing and the decreasing; the holding onto and letting go. Effective resolution-making means you have to be ready to lose or sacrifice some things in order to get what you want. To pass an exam, or increase your income, might mean losing sleeping hours, resources, and even friends.
Friends? This is one of the hardest things to do. There are people you may like but you know deep within yourself that they are bad company. You know they add no value to your life.
They instead take away what you value: your principles, goals, ambitions, determination and focus. You might have to go separate ways. There is no need to cling to a friendship which only serves the purpose of killing your dreams or making you lose focus. Sometimes you have to let go of the chicken in order to scoop the buffalo.
The famous actor Damian Lewis once said, “People need revelation, and then they need resolution.” Revelation has to do with acquired knowledge: what revelation do you get upon assessing 2015 and your current situation? Upon acquiring the knowledge, what have you resolved to do? What have you resolved not to do in 2016? What have you resolved to acquire and what have you decided to get rid of?
Resolution-making is an important action which, however, often falls victim to being reduced to a mere formality or ritual. Some people make start-of-year “resolutions” only because that is what they are expected to do, or it is the practice, or because all their friends do it. Why do you make resolutions? Do you really believe in them?

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