When It Comes to Resolutions, Give Yourself Some Compassion

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By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

The modern-day definition of resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”

A new year is upon us, and with it, new resolutions. And with our new resolve comes guilt and shame over failing at it within the first month. What is wrong with me that I can’t be more resolute in improving myself?

Nothing.

New Year’s resolutions are believed to have begun in ancient Babylon 4,000 years ago. The Babylonians made promises thinking if they kept their word, the gods would bestow favor. If they broke their promises, the gods would be irritated with them.

New Year’s resolutions continued through history with the Romans honoring the two-faced god Janus with sacrifices and promises of good behavior. Onward into the Middle Ages. Knights would place their hands on a peacock, live or roasted. The “Peacock Vow” at the end of the year was a resolution to maintain their knighthood values. The first recorded use of the phrase “New Year resolution” appeared in a Boston newspaper in 1813.

It would seem people the world over down through the millennia understand the New Year as a fresh start of sorts, wanting to do away with past faults and set a course for better ways. But despite 4,000 years of working at it, our success rate isn’t very good. According to research, 80% of people fail in their first month, and only 8% are successful in their resolve.

It seems we all pretty much want to make things better. That said, why is wanting to do the right thing so dang hard?

Here are my thoughts, which are intended to help you give yourself a break. Do with them what you will.

Willpower. To resolve a change takes significant willpower. Our willpower is not an endless supply. Think of it as a reservoir. You only have so much. In today’s world, I’m willing to bet you’ve tapped your volume of willpower. You can’t take on a new big draw without giving it up somewhere else. You’re human, not supra-human. Give yourself a break. You’re changing who you are. That’s not easy.

Goals. I don’t set goals or resolutions. Goals create terrible self-talk. Goals usually arise from comparison, a practice in which we always tell ourselves we’re losing. As soon as we set a personal goal, our inner monologue tells us that we’re less until we become something different. That’s a heavy load to carry. We seem to express our self-talk by projecting it on those around us. What if we began telling ourselves that right now, we are enough? I find that very energizing and motivating. Try it.

Incremental changes: Make minor adjustments that don’t seem like change but, over time, will add up. These small adjustments will not tax your willpower beyond what it can give. Instead of setting a goal to lose xx pounds, tweak the system that affects your weight. Maybe do nothing more than begin logging your eating two or three days a week on an app like My Fitness Pal. It sounds like nothing, right? You might be surprised how excited and motivated you are to move forward to the next small step when free from a burdensome goal. You begin doing it for enjoyment, looking forward to the next slight adjustment that isn’t difficult. Be patient. Maybe by March, you’re recording five days a week and keeping it within a specific calorie count. Leave yourself wanting more. You will naturally increase whatever it is to fill that desire. If you overdo it, you don’t want any more of it. Go slow. Go easy. Give the minor changes a chance to add up over time.

Those are the main ideas that I keep in the forefront of my thoughts, and it seems to help me move forward. You could probably add a lot of insight of your own. Resolutions, goals, and change are huge topics. I hope that whatever (if any) changes you want to make are successful, but more importantly, you are kind to yourself in the journey.

Keep in mind the original meaning of the word resolution is “a breaking or reducing into parts; process of breaking up, dissolution," from Old French resolution (14c.) and directly from Latin resolutionem (nominative resolutio) "process of reducing things into simpler forms."

Sources:

Oxford Languages, https://languages.oup.com/

www.trafalgar.com

www.etymonline.com

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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