This ain’t no New Year’s resolution

If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.   

—Jiddu Krishnamurti

I don’t “do” New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, I see them as a massive set-up for failure. Why? Because when we make decisions based on a date, or because others are doing, or because it’s a ritual of sorts, we don’t necessarily make or mean them from the heart.

And without our heart guiding our goals, we have little to bind us to them. Sure, we make rational decisions and goals all the time; we have to. Life requires of us to meet commitments and organise our time in ways that aren’t spontaneous or even desire-driven.  (Anyone who’s changed a nappy at 2am when they’ve had no sleep knows that, regardless of how adorable that little cherub is.)

But making a resolution is different. It’s tapping into the dream of something bigger we hope for ourselves. Think of some of the classic resolutions people make around this time:

  • I’m going to quit smoking
  • I’m going to lose weight
  • I’m going to go to the gym 5 times a week
  • I’m going to write the book I’ve been talking about

And how many times do you meet someone a few months later, who says, “Yeah, I gave up the ciggies/stuck to the diet/went to the gym/started writing for a few weeks but then xyz happened and I just haven’t got back on track yet…”?

They are all fantastic goals, for sure. So why don’t they stick? Because something’s lacking. It’s the heart behind the goal, the ‘why’ of the resolution.

Why does he want to quit smoking?                                                                                                     Why does she want to lose weight?

These are the heart of the matter and they will bring the understanding of ourselves we need for the changes to not only happen, but to become permanent.

Seems simple, right? But each one of us is unique and that’s why universal goal statements don’t really work for us. Take the smoking example:

He wants to give up smoking because a) it’s expensive and b) it’s unhealthy. Right? Partially, but these are just rational explanations.

The heart of the matter (a fictional story – any similarity purely coincidental)

His best mate, the friend he’s known forever since they went fishing in their tinnies, drank beer by a camp fire and cooked weekend barbies for their girls was just diagnosed with bowel cancer and is facing having a chunk of his bowel removed and a round of chemo. He could die.  And his mate has a wife and a couple of rugrats who really want their dad around. And he and his mate have given up smokes every New Year’s for the past few years, till life gets too much and they have a few too many at one of the barbies they still get together for (although not as often now). He actually really loves this mate and this has shaken him – not to mention made him look at his own wife and kids and feel the kick inside. What if it were him? This has him realizing he is more fragile than he lets on, and brings up fear that he could die, or even become really debilitated and unable to do the things he loves with the people he loves.


So the heart of the matter is that the guy who wants to give up smoking wants to live, to be there for his family, for his mates, and he has realized that he can’t keep putting poison in his body and expecting it to work at its peak for him. Now we see there are some thoughts of self-preservation and commitment to others surfacing for him, and we can look at the driving forces that will really help this resolution become a lifelong commitment, by fostering the deep-seated motives at the heart of the matter.

And what of his goal to quit smoking?

Well, it might shift to embracing a lifestyle that focuses on being fit and healthy – which will include quitting smoking as part of a much bigger picture that might also see actions like getting out for a walk with his family after dinner, kicking the ball with the kids on Saturday morning, introducing more salad and veggies to the weekend Barbie (and having those more often because he misses his mates), and cutting back on the beer, maybe having more water instead. The difference is that he knows why he’s doing it, and has gotten in touch with the deep-seated forces – including fear – that are driving the goal. When we understand ourselves and what drives us, transformation can occur organically and harmoniously, not feeling like a battle against ourselves to “change.”