By this sixth day of 2018, you’re undoubtedly on your way to proving the axiom that New Year’s resolutions unfailingly fail.
I’ve discovered a Rutgers University professor of philosophy who has an intriguing explanation of the reason, and what to do about it.
Marking the passage from one year to the next is a liminal experience, when the old exits and the new enters to sounds of celebration—noisemakers, confetti, and kisses.
We are in a liminal space when we are on vacation or during the yearend holiday season when we’re distanced from the usual schedules and stresses of daily life and work.
In breaking with previous practices, routines, or thinking, we have the time to ponder ourselves and our desire to be better, to be all we believe we can be or want to be.
All this suggests why we make New Year’s resolutions, despite doubts that we’ll be successful in keeping them.
I looked back over several years of my own resolutions and sure enough, the same items stay on my list year after year. They just roll over like unused cell phone minutes.
Why? Ruth Chang, of Rutgers, suggests that we’re trying to do what we know we should already have been doing.
Instead, we should be creating something new of ourselves instead of revisiting old ground. We should turn inwards and ask ourselves what we can commit to.
When we commit to something, we give it value. This provides a reason to pursue it that we didn't have before. Prof. Chang:
We have the capacity to commit to things and to actually write the story of our own lives by committing to people and projects and plans of actions that then create reasons for ourselves to live one way as opposed to another.
People whom she refers to as “drifters” leave it to external factors to write the story of their lives. They rely on reward, fear, or comfort level to determine what they do and who they are.
Instead of looking “out there” for the values that determine what we do, we should be looking inward to discern what we can stand behind, commit to, and resolve to throw ourselves behind.
When we create reasons for ourselves to become this kind of person rather than that, we become the people we are.
In this way, we make ourselves the authors of our own lives. If we drift through life, she says, we're just buffeted by circumstances. We’re not acting as the author of our own life.
“So in this new year, let’s not do the same old, same old,” says Prof. Chang. “Let’s not resolve to work harder at being the selves that we already are. Instead, let’s resolve to make ourselves into the selves that we can commit to being.”
If you enjoyed reading this, you will like my newest book, Saints and Poets, Maybe: One Hundred Wanderings, available at: Amazon