A resolution is just a thought and as many of us have noticed—especially those of us who practice mindfulness or meditation—we have very little control over our thoughts. It doesn’t take any effort to think about getting a promotion, or speaking more confidently, or exercising. Thoughts arise and disappear. In the “real world” (where action happens), a positive action requires effort.
When we make a resolution (have the ‘thought’ of doing something), our body (the action-making machine) tends to ignore it, because our body does what it is used to doing. In physics, we learn about inertia. The definition of inertia is: “A property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.” Y
Yep, it’s a real thing demonstrated to us in our everyday behavior. That’s why most resolutions aren’t realized.
Unless we have act on our plan to physically change our behavior, resolutions remain thoughts. And, as is the nature of thoughts, they arise and disappear.
A good way to observe this in your own life is to begin a practice of mindfulness. And, no I DON’T mean make a resolution to start practicing mindfulness, but just start noticing what you’re thinking and what you’re doing—right now. The more you practice, on a moment-by-moment basis, the more likely you will be to self-correct in the moment. If you want to do less of something: for example, looking at Facebook when you should be working, resolving to do that won’t accomplish it. But by observing yourself, your intent will help you close your Facebook browser tab or application as soon you notice yourself doing it.
We typically have trouble self-correcting, because we do things habitually or from a reactionary pattern. We never actually see ourselves doing them, until we complete the action. Being mindful is the process needed to accomplish change.
In a blog article I wrote, Get to Know Yourself to Get Over Yourself (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/get-know-yourself-over-wendy-haylett/), I suggested this practice to actually take action, rather than ‘resolving’ to take action: “A suggestion to build the habit of looking at your mind is to check-in with yourself, instead of checking Facebook or your email, at least every other time you do check your email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. If you pick up your phone twice every hour, skip the half-hour check and check-in with yourself. Do this all day, every day for 3 weeks.”
Maybe a realistic professional resolution is not to make a resolution, but to first look inside and observe our thoughts and behaviors, then act in each moment to adjust what we don’t like. A resolution by its nature can become a “should.” As I mentioned earlier, our body is not always responsive to shoulds.
Pay attention to what is right in front of you. Mindfulness of what is in front of you means you can’t think about your fears, resolutions, shoulds, and plans. You will naturally act on, or interact with, what is happening in the moment. If you habitually do that, your behavior will change, in alignment what needs to be done.
Gregg Krech of the ToDo Institute (http://www.todoinstitute.org/), who wrote the book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, says taking action is “doing what needs to be done when it need to be done in response to the needs of the situation.”
Start right now. Did you resolve to read more? Then do it! Read a chapter of the book next to your bed, right now. Did you resolve to do more writing? Open a Word document or your journal and write something—anything—for ten minutes, next. Did you resolve to eat more fruit. Then grab an apple and feel good about your year! You started it right!
I was intrigued from the first moment I read the bold claim accredited to Socrates that "the unexamined life is not worth living" and it has been a touchstone throughout my life. And, through the power of hindsight, I see its influence powering many of my career choices and life activities.