Resolutions seem to focus on a desired outcome or behavior rather than the reason behind the behavior. Just wanting to change your outcomes isn’t enough. You have to change your decisions that have produced the outcomes you’re trying to eliminate.
I find it really easy to list the obvious things I’d like to change about myself. I’d like to drop the weight that I’ve gained in the last five years. I’d like to move to a home I like better and is more suited to me. I’d like to make more money and do work that’s fulfilling. I’d like to keep my house cleaner. I’d like to have a romantic relationship that I’m happy with and is emotionally healthy. I’d like to find the motivation to complete the film projects I’ve been working on.
This isn’t rocket science. I can make a nice list of them. I can even promise that I’m going to do them all. But that doesn’t work for me. That approach also doesn’t seem to work for others. Why not?
I think it’s because we fail to look at the reasons we do the things we do.
It doesn’t do me a bit of good to swear I’m going to use willpower to force myself to quit eating sweets and exercise more unless I look at why I’ve made the behavioral decisions that led me to gain weight. It doesn’t do me any good to resolve to make more money unless I ask myself why I’ve done the things I’ve done in the last decade that have led me to squander my talent and opportunities. And so forth.
I’m where I am in life because of the decisions I’ve made. Just like a lot of people, I was saddled with some really poor childhood programming that I didn’t understand for many years, but I can’t blame that forever. As an adult, I have to take responsibility for changing the things in myself that have led to places I sometimes don’t want to be. But in too many cases, I’ve been willing to complain about the results I’ve been getting without changing the decisions that create the outcomes.
I started changing some of my decisions a few months ago. Some of those decisions would seem trivial to others, but they’re big deals to me. (Anyone who’s known me well would be shocked to see me take a job that requires me to go to an office and work for others, for instance, even though this is typical for most people.)
I would love to say that every decision has led to immediate results, but that’s not the case. Change takes longer than I’d like it to take. But I can either make decisions and count on gradual change or I can keep wishing and hoping for magical change because I put something on a list and “resolved” to do it. I know which one seems like the approach that might bring results.
I’ve been doing some things lately that I didn’t want to do. For instance, I’ve done some work that I didn’t really enjoy, but it’s the first step in pushing myself in new directions to make myself more financially stable and prosperous. I’ve changed the way I handle some relationships in my life. I’m more willing to make painful decisions to exclude people from my life who want an unequal relationship that I’m not willing to be part of.
These might not seem like big deals to you. The other decisions I’ve made might not sound like big deals to you, either. It might sound more interesting to make a list and promise to “make more money” and “have a good romantic relationship.” But I believe that making the more mundane decisions will do far more to produce positive outlines than any list of resolutions will.
If I’m still in the same place next year that I am today, it will be because I haven’t continued to make decisions every day that make me a better person, not because I didn’t make a list of grand outcomes that I promise to somehow fulfill.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who successfully uses resolutions each year, but maybe those people exist. For me, though, it’s not about the list of outcomes. It’s about making decisions each day that make me the man I should have made myself years ago.
Will that lead me to where I want to be? I can’t say for sure. Ask me in a year. Ask the people in my life in five years. If my outcomes are what I want them to be by then, it will be because of some terribly mundane decisions I’m making today. I have faith that it will be worth it.
At this point, I have to sell myself — the changes I’m making — to other people and see who wants to be a part of my future and has faith in me. That can be much more exciting than making resolutions each year.