It’s January 10th and I still haven’t made a single New Year’s resolution. No, this isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news. My pattern with resolutions is much like my M.O. with holiday traditions: some years I’m into it, some years I’m not.
But this year I’ve definitely been thinking about it more than usual. I’ve been working with a coach (Becky) for a few months and—no coincidence—we reached the goal-setting part of our process just as the end of the year began looming large. I’m a goal-setter by nature so this is not something I dread: it actually falls under my “delight” umbrella. And in the past it’s often been something I could do blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back. You know: make a little list in my journal and call it a day. Not this year. I’m finding it to be quite a challenge, even with Becky’s handy-dandy guide and a deadline to meet.
Why do I bother, you ask? Why do I feel a need to resolve to do anything? Maybe because it gives me a false sense of control. Or because I have a significant other who keeps hammering home the point that without focus we’re doomed to wander aimlessly through our lives, bemoaning the fact that things aren’t turning out the way we’d like them to. Truth be told, it could be because the process actually worked when I was looking for a new relationship and a new job.
So why am I stalling? I certainly know how to do it. I know that being specific is key. That making too long a list is the surest road to failure. And that making no list at all is more a sign of being lazy than being wise. (When I heard the actress Amy Adams say that instead of making resolutions she’s going to just “roll with it”, my first thought was, “Wimp!”) I also know that telling someone else about my plans—even going so far as to ask someone to hold me accountable—is added insurance. (Guess that means I’ll be posting them here?)
Many goal-setting gurus claim that using the word “intentions” instead of “goals” is equivalent to attaching booster rockets. Gail Sher goes so far as to say “Only ‘intention’ is essential.” Why? Because it says to the universe, “Hey, I’m ready to receive. Time to open the floodgates!” Much as I’d love to believe this is how things work, Sher’s view that “The value of a vow…is in perfecting its methodology” is more my speed. In other words, setting a goal and asking the gods for an assist is all well and good. But someone’s got to do the heavy lifting. A Russian proverb on my refrigerator says, “Pray to God but keep rowing towards shore.” Yep—that about sums it up.
So today my intention is to go back to my goal list and cross off anything that smacks of an obligation. I resolve to keep only the things that I feel passionate about. That I can commit to with a real sense of purpose. Because as much as making resolutions is about daring to think we can influence what happens in our lives, it’s also about creating more work for ourselves. And having good intentions only gets us halfway there.