To me, they’re not made for any reason other than the fact that the calendar year is ending, which frankly is a crappy reason to promise yourself anything. When I make a promise to do something, context is everything.
So if it just so happens that I screw something up on December 31, or if I spot a huge opportunity on January 1, I might make myself a promise to pursue it then.
But the truth is that I’m making myself promises throughout the year. To do more of something that I’m doing right. To do less of something I’m not particularly finding useful in my work or my relationships or as a parent.
Resolution, to me, is a verb and not a noun. It isn’t something I reserve for the bright, shiny day of the new year when the possibility for renewal seems so full and rich, but whose luster wears off quickly in the dark, cold days of January when the day to day chaos of life kicks back in and I forget what I’ve promised, or suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so important anymore.
Improvement, change, adjustment and learning are part of my life cycle. It’s the only way it becomes something I can embrace when it’s needed and truly relevant, not when the date on the calendar says it’s supposed to happen. For me (and of course your mileage may vary), I’m actually more successful with adjusting something when I’m committing to it in the proper moment, or because I’m viscerally feeling the impact of not making that choice. And that can happen to me on March 14 or July 28 or September 16.
Change is impelled when it’s contextually and emotionally the strongest. When my mind and heart and spirit are immersed in the thing that makes the change so palpably necessary. January 1 is rarely, if ever, that day.
It’s not that I don’t ever want to improve things. Hell, this year, I’ve changed and adjusted and committed to more than in many years before this, in ways that can profoundly change my life. But the dates on which those happened were somewhat arbitrary. February 3. April 11. May 10th. July 11th. August 18th. September 3rd. Those days each marked resolutions of sorts. And they’ll change my life for good.
It’s not that I don’t understand the ritual of the fresh start, of the marking of a new year, of second chances and rebirth and the possibility in a clean calendar page. And if that’s what moves you to do or change something that you’ve been waiting to do for a long time, if the new year is the motivation you need to tackle something, by all means make that resolution. But remember this.
The part of the resolution that’s important is not that you announced it to the world in your blog post, or even that you told it to your friends. It’s not that you started the year with a new frame of mind and swore that “this will be the year”. It’s especially not that you made a promise to yourself that rings hollow to you, but that you think others are expecting you to say in order to demonstrate that you’re self-aware enough to change something.
The power in resolution is when that something inside you goes *click*, and when the next step feels like it needs to be different. It can be totally quiet and private. It can be in March instead of in January. It can be infinitesimally small, or overwhelmingly life-changing. And what’s most important of all is not that you change what you say, but that you rework what and why you do. That’s sometimes a long process. Even an eternal one, a lifelong pursuit that has no beginning or end. Or for you? The resolution may be not to change a damned thing.
Change is not a holiday on the calendar. It’s not a societal ritual that you owe the world. It’s the thing that you need, for your own reasons, in whatever moment you need it. If it works for you to mark it to coincide with the turning of another year, by all means do that and let it be your beacon for the months ahead. But do that because it’s what works, not because it’s what’s there.
As for me, I’m just going to keep on with things right now, because they feel right, and the promises I made to myself months ago aren’t much different than they were then.
Who knows what might happen in April.