In this season of New Year’s resolutions, what quickly becomes an issue for me is how to keep my shiny new goals in play. Usually by mid-January, the “New and Not Yet Improved Me” is already feeling that the “Old Unimproved Me” wasn’t so bad. At least Old Me didn’t have to live up to such high expectations! In fact, I’ve often found the whole resolution thing to be somewhat depressing. And it seems I’m not alone. I read an article recently that proclaimed today, Monday, January 16, 2017, to be “Blue Monday,” the most depressing day of the year. The purported reasons for this collective mood dip are: 1) having to go back to the routine of work or school after the long holiday break; 2) realizing the extent of holiday debt; and 3) – you guessed it – not being able to keep New Year’s resolutions.
Apparently, the date of “Blue Monday” changes every year, based upon a calculation that’s way over my head, but the validity of it has been debated since its inception in 2005. Some experts call it pseudo-science, and others say that the concept of one blitz of a blue day lessens the gravity of true clinical depression, which is certainly an important claim. While I’m not disputing that claim at all, I do think most of us indeed feel a bit blue when we acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that our really-gonna-do-it-this-time resolutions have once again fallen into the Land of Broken Promises, just like they did last year.
But maybe the problem isn’t in the making of resolutions. Maybe it’s in how we define the word.
My trusty Webster’s Dictionary defines it this way. Resolve: “To decide on a course of action.” Notice that nowhere in this definition does it say anything about actually TAKING action. Compare this to the definition of the word “solve”: “To find an answer to, explanation for, or means of effectively dealing with a problem.” Notice the “finding” and “dealing with” here, the action.
Semantics, you say, but I do wonder if the way we approach our resolutions determines, in some small way, how we take action upon them. Here’s a case in point. I’ve moved recently, and have been cleaning out nooks and crannies that have somehow acquired their own nooks and crannies, but in my cleaning and sorting, I came upon a notebook from a writing seminar I took many years ago. The class was motivational in nature, and the speaker’s premise was that how we define and visualize our goals does indeed affect how we carry them out. He suggested writing affirmations with an “I do” or “I am” rather than an “I will do” or “I will be.” This puts the action in the present, right now, instead of at some nebulous point in the future. I called my affirmation list my “I Do” list rather than my “To Do” list, which, again, implies present rather than future action. When I reviewed the list upon finding it, I was shocked to see that most of what I’d written down over twenty years ago I had achieved. Imagine! I’d actually absorbed what I wanted to do back then and took baby steps, over time (and with setbacks, of course), to accomplish them. They were simple, general, doable goals, not “all or nothing” dictates. “I am a writer” rather than “I will be a writer.” “I am a person who believes…” versus “I will become a person who believes…” “I am eating healthier and exercising” instead of “I will jog ten miles a day.”
So, my friends, if you’ve fallen off the resolution bandwagon, no worries. As my daddy used to say, let’s dust off our britches and get back up on that ol’ horse again! Let’s revamp our resolutions with a little less RE-solve and a little more SOLVE. And while we’re at it, let’s let go of the all-or-nothing approach, which gets us into trouble fairly fast. Better to set realistic goals and be able to meet them, than to aspire to so much pie-in-the-sky that we don’t have a chance of succeeding. Will I ever have that stomach of steel or terrifically toned tush promised in the buff-your-stuff ads on TV? Nope, probably not. And neither will my chapter- or story-a-day writing goal happen consistently either. Yet there is something to be said for success by degree. Sure, the couple of paragraphs I wrote over the weekend didn’t equal a whole story, but two polished paragraphs still made me feel pretty okay. And while we’re speaking of stories, one of the many things I love about being a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor is their motto: “Changing lives one story at a time.” What a simple goal, really; one line, one story, one reader at a time. But implied within it is a vast bigger picture, the loftier goal of “changing the world.”
Yes, when it comes to resolutions, we always do need a big-picture plan. And don’t get me wrong, goals are good. And resolutions are intentions made manifest. But resolutions alone don’t get the job done. If we change the way we perceive it, though, if we take away that extra step between “resolving to do” and “doing,” we might just make some progress. We don’t need resolutions to take action. And we certainly don’t need broken resolutions to feel bad about not taking action. We just need to act.
Oh, and one more thing: I’m not going to RE-solve to survive Blue Monday. I’m simply going to solve the problem by shifting how I look at it. So how about if we call it “Yellow Monday” instead? I know, I know, it doesn’t have quite the same ring, but I picked yellow since it’s the color of sunshine, or the sparkle in someone’s eyes when they smile. Because that’s what it’s really all about anyway, isn’t it? Being happy. So we’ll solve the problem of “Blue Monday” by simply being happy. By celebrating us, right here, right now, just the way we are. I like the way that sounds!
Until next time,