Sunflower Mandala

Resolution Shmesolution!

Hard to say, and even harder not to break


When I was a preteen, I made New Year’s resolutions by rote. “I will lose 5 pounds” was an annual staple (even though I wasn’t overweight). Being nicer to my family made the list as well. I approached Confession much the same way. In the confessional I would recite a bulleted list of naughtiness: “Forgive me, father . . . I was rude to my mother and father, I used bad language, and I had bad thoughts.” Same sins, same resolutions, same guilt.

By the time I was keeping a diary, I’d ditched the regularity of resolutions. Instead, I would wrap up the highlights of the  year in a late-night December 31 entry and, if I didn’t fall asleep first, I’d include hopes and wishes for the new year and beyond.  A high point of 1973 was my becoming an Osmonds fan:  “I changed from a hater to a lover!” the 13-year-old me wrote. “I have 5 albums, watched them on Mike Douglas, Action ’73 (’74 now!), American Bandstand, Here’s Lucy, and Bob Hope, have 2 singles, buy loads of magazines, and most of all went to their concert. I hope I never forget it.” (Later in the entry I wrote that I hoped to marry Donny Osmond, wisely adding “in a way I’m kidding.”)

As the years progressed, I became more introspective (growing up, as well as having pen and paper, will do that), but also more judgmental. At the end of  1974, I wrote that I’d hoped I’d changed for the better during the year. Unfortunately, the weight thing was back: “I am still about five feet tall, and I weigh ninety-seven pounds. I weighted ninety-three just a week ago, but I ate like a pig this vacation,” I wrote. I concluded by thanking God for all my blessings and for the Osmonds. 

By the time I’d turned 17, the year-end wrap up had morphed into a “crap-up” (oops, a bad word!) filled with laments about my appearance and my perpetual boyfriend-less state. No resolutions here, but not much sign of hope or direction either: “I don’t know what is in store for me; all I know is that I’m too exhausted to try for anything,” I wrote that year. (Unfortunately, the Donny thing hadn’t worked out.)

We often joke that resolutions are “made to be broken.” It’s true: unlike yoga, New Year’s resolutions don’t encourage flexibility. You either lose or gain, pass or fail, make or break. 

This year, my resolution solution was to focus on intention. To me, resolutions are rigid and unyielding, hopes undefined and frail. But intentions are like baby plants born in a peaceful garden of introspection, encouraged to grow (and sometimes sprout in surprising directions) by nurturing and care. 

A pathway of intention allows for flexibility, even failure, without the need for resolution-induced self-shaming. If an intention is not fulfilled, we can consider why. Was the intention worthy? Then perhaps it needs more time to bloom. Was the intention realistic? If not, maybe it needs pruning. Or maybe we’re better off planting a different intention, one with more promise. Nothing needs to get broken. 

“A pathway of intention allows for flexibility, even failure, without the need for resolution-induced self-shaming.”

Perhaps you prefer the hard-core language of resolution. Intention works better for me because a gentler approach makes it harder for me to give up.  I set an intention to publish two blogs a month this year, with the first appearing in early January. I missed my deadline, but had I labeled myself a failure, I would probably have scrapped the piece. Instead, I followed a new path that had sprouted during the writing process (delving into diaries was not part of my plan), kept revising, and finished the blog.

Unlike resolution, intention allows for the unexpected. When we walk the path of intention in our yoga practice and in our lives, we may not secure a desired goal, but we are sure to receive other boons–deeper awareness and understanding–during the journey.

Whether you are a resoluter, an intender, or neither, I hope that the path you walk in 2014 is a peaceful one. Namaste.



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2 Responses to “Resolution Shmesolution!”

  1. Heather Maciak says:

    What a lovely, peaceful, introspective piece of writing! I love the idea of living with intention, as I, too, fear the failure that inevitably follows the great resolutions of January 1st every year. You haven’t lost your talent for writing, Louise, and I was pleased to see your name on my Facebook page, with another gem for me to enjoy!

    PS-How lucky you are to have kept the diaries of your youth.

  2. Françoise says:

    Yes I have resolutions for 2015. Nothing spectacular, just things I really want to improve on. So for 2015 I wish to be:
    less impatient
    more grateful
    more connected with nature
    be joyful for what I have


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