Most of us at the beginning of the New Year see it as a time of new beginnings. It really is because we can start from day 1 and have 364 days afterwards to come to a conclusion of some sort for a solution. Of course, we also all know the trap of day 17 or day 221, both arbitrary as can be, when we decide that we can give ourselves a break for having worked so hard, and do the thing we are resolved to move away from. We all know that trap, and the sense of failure and subsequent judgment we have towards ourselves when we don’t succeed. The whole thing becomes a mess, and we decide to wait until next year to start again. We hang clothes on tread mills, quit making appointments with trainers, put our healthy, quick serve meals in the freezer, and leave our calorie counter wrist bands on our night stands.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s start at the beginning:
Resolution literally means to untie again, implying that something has become bound, knotted, or captured and needs to be loosened or freed.
We don’t like being knotted up or captured by something. So a resolution is actually rooted in a desire to become untied, a wish to live differently, freed from the constrictions that keep us from the lives we imagine. To succeed we cannot start with a purpose and develop a plan. We must start with a passion that has a purpose and then develop a plan.
So what is passion? Passion is a willingness to be in pain for something that matters more than ones own comfort. The motivation to succeed is in the desire, or the anger to change, not in the purpose. Do you have a passion to apply to the purpose? Are you willing to mess up, make mistakes, experience emotional discomfort? Are you willing to be humanly imperfect, a work in progress, be in need to succeed, be willing to struggle and own the feelings that come with the struggle? Are you willing to be embarrassed by how much you care about change? If so, you have a passion. Passion paradoxically doesn’t make us powerful as much as it empowers our willingness to feel and seek help to get to whatever matters to us. Once the passion is accepted, then the purpose can be addressed before the plan can be followed. Remember, the passion matters as much or more than the purpose or the plan.
As to purpose, it must be pure to be worth doing. A pure purpose is not my own mission if I am doing it because I “should” do it. Should is a command that attempts to make the heart comply because of external pressure. A pure purpose is one that is devised because we need to do it for ourselves, or even better, want to do it for ourselves. In other words, the purpose is internally motivated, i.e., back to passion. We purpose something good for us because we need or want it badly from within and that something is good for us. It will fulfill or gratify the inner-self. If the purpose isn’t pure, the passion is usually rooted in resentment or unresolved wounds that we try to overcome rather than have the passion to face. Passion is a desire for something more than vengeance against something.
If the passion is present and the purpose is pure, the plan can be devised.
When a person has a passion for something and a purpose in it, the plan will be bigger than one can do alone. To become untied, we are attempting to change. If we could do it alone, we would have already untied ourselves. A plan requires that we seek help to do that which we have not been able to do alone. It will be bigger than my own will or power, something for which I have to seek help. It will require help to achieve because I am doing something new, learning something new, and thus will require new experiences or teachers, guides, partners, colleagues, etc.
Once the help has arrived, accepting and dealing with realities of implementation occur. For a plan to succeed requires that we follow steps. Like 1,2,3 or A,B,C. We cannot go from 1 to 365 or from A to Z. It’s the old “Rome wasn’t built in a day” analogy. One day at a time is all we have. What I do in the day matters as much as the imagined result. The way to eat a steak is one bite at a time. No one grabs a cow and swallows it (my apologies to the vegans; the point is meant to be gross). If we follow the plan per day, before we realize it, we will have eaten a whole herd of cattle, one bite at a time.
For a plan to succeed, one must assess one’s self by the day, not the picture of completion.
If I compare myself to the end point desire, the gap between ultimate fulfillment and how far away I am from fulfillment sets me up to hate my passion, belittle the purpose, and sink in self-pity and toxic shame. Also, some days will be better than others. Reassess, get help, start again tomorrow; if the passion is present, the assessment, the help, and the restart will allow me to continue on a quest that grows me (changes me) no matter what the end results. I will find that I am untied from much more than I had planned on or fulfilled in ways that have nothing to do with the original purpose or plan. The passion will have brought me to one form of success or another.
In conclusion, more than summary, resolutions are not achieved by will, or force, or power, as much as by admitting our need for help, surrendering to that help, and accepting the end results of having shown up in our own lives completely. We have risked our hearts by caring about something deeply and grown, no matter the outcomes. We have succeeded by growing and changing, becoming smarter than we were the year before, wiser than we were the year before, and stronger than we were the year before. We have succeeded. We are resolved—untied to live a little more fully.
If you’re yearning to untie what binds you in the new year, we’d love to help. Browse our therapists and book your first session today: Nashville, Brentwood, Murfreesboro, Memphis.
Chip Dodd, PhD, is a teacher, trainer, author, and counselor, who has been working in the field of recovery and redemption for over 30 years. With his clinical experience, love of storytelling, and passion for living fully, Chip developed a way of seeing and expressing one’s internal experience called the Spiritual Root System™. To read more from Chip, visit his blog, or check out his books.