top of page

Resolutions: Commit to a Daily Office in 2022

Matthew 9:29: “If you have faith…and do not doubt, it shall be done.”

As we complete the intense season of merry-making, gift-giving, and gift-returning, one more holiday tradition will remain: pondering those pesky New Year’s Resolutions. It’s probably fitting that after a season of indulgence (financial and/or caloric), we resolve to change our habits in the new year. Lose ten pounds! Exercise 5 times a week! Save more money! No more ugly sweaters!

And then, come Valentine’s Day, we sit on the couch with our chocolates, laughing with our sweetheart about how rarely we’ve used that new gym membership (which is working out to about $35 per workout), and wondering why we haven’t lost those pounds or saved any money. Maybe it’s because we’re now wearing expensive and tasteful sweaters?

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Research indicates that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions! Most fitness resolutions last, on average, 8 days.

Are we going about this whole resolution thing the wrong way?

What is a Resolution?

Resolution: the act of … determining upon an action, course of action, method, procedure, etc. a decision or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose {from}

Perhaps resolutions are hard because those words — determination, firmness — are hard. We are resolved to act in a certain way. We have firm expectations of specific outcomes.

But we’re still human, prone to slip-ups and mistakes. We still live in a constantly changing environment, which can derail even the most strong-willed and tenacious among us.

One of my mindfulness teachers talks about the tension between patience and determination in our mindfulness practice. She describes how the attitude with which we approach our meditation practice can be placed along a continuum, from militaristic effort on one side and extreme laziness on the other. As with most dichotomous systems, neither extreme feels very good — the idea is to find our way to a comfortable spot in the middle.

I think our problem with resolutions is that they put us firmly in militaristic effort mode, obsessed with outcomes and notions of success and failure.

But the answer is not to flee to the other extreme, to abandon the practice of self-improvement altogether. It is to find that sweetspot between effort and patience: to identify areas for growth, summon the courage to transform our habits, and, most importantly, to do so with kindness and compassion for ourselves.

We should perhaps think in terms of intentions instead of resolutions. Intention comes from the Latin intendere, “to turn one’s attention,” and intentionem, “a stretching out.”

While resolutions are firm and hard, intentions are flexible. They’re about where we direct our attention. They’re about being mindful.

As we seek personal transformation in the year ahead, I offer you this mindful approach to New Year’s Resolutions and Intentions:

  1. Consider Your Intentions

The most common resolutions are to lose weight, spend less money, and get organized. Those are all valuable and healthy practices. But why are they your intentions? Do you want to feel better about your body? Know that you won’t need to worry about money for retirement? Stop wasting time looking for all your things in the morning? Honoring the personal meaning behind an action helps us maintain our resolve.

2. Focus on Process, Not Results

Resolutions like “lose weight” and “get organized” are completely focused on a result, with no identification of a process for how to get there.

Studies show that when employees — from sales executives to Formula One pit crews — focus on process and style instead of sales numbers and speed, they actually perform better. Intensely focusing on results paradoxically makes us less likely to achieve them.

Instead of focusing on “losing 10 pounds,” try focusing on going for walks or eating healthy salads for lunch — you will probably end up losing some weight in the process. And you’ll probably enjoy the journey a lot more.

The focus of our resolution should be the process — the infinite present moments in which transformation will occur — rather than the single instance of its attainment.