Approaching a new year, a new chapter, or any new beginning, most of us look positively towards all that can be different than before. We make resolutions, state intentions, imbue ourselves with visions and manifestos.
For some, new years can spark the impulse to slam shut the door of the past year – a “Thank God that is over.” In any case, reaching for the new and fresh offers breath of hope that a new year or new beginning of any kind can inspire.
I write here with an offering: to approach this new year with a new definition of what it means to make and live our resolutions, intentions, and desires for change or resolve in our relationships. My hope is that this new way of considering your resolutions can help to move you toward what it is that you want in your life all year round.
Resolutions haven’t meant much to me until I started seeing them as actions that I can take that work towards a different solution. Intentions connect us to action states, and action is what makes our life alive with new movements, which means new results. Envisioning or goal setting sets states into action as well. Let’s look at some actions that making and living a resolution can mean, and how these considerations can lead to your year long intentions.
“Re-solution”: Do something again and in a different way and investigate your results.
We are creatures of habit, patterns, and nervous systems that at their very base, act to preserve our survival. But we are not only animals. We are animals that have the choice to create and evolve, to solve problems consciously. But to do that, we have to learn and change for the better. And to define what better means, we must live our resolutions as puzzles to solve, and not just as statements that will live themselves.
Look closely at what is not working, or what is being ignored in a situation for the problem you are seeking to solve.
If I am ignoring a problem, or a way that I am being within my life that is part of what I don’t want, there is not a statement that I can make that will change anything. Actions create results.
Problems don’t just change on their own. Problems grow just like anything else, and are comprised of habits and patterns that creates problems. Solutions grow in the same way- they are ways of living, with awareness of what’s not working and what does lead to a desired result. These solutions then lead to the ability to guard oneself from repeating an action that creates the known problem.
Setting an intention can be like an anchor that sits in between a problem and a new solution. An intention settles you into a different state of being within the same circumstances. This can lead to a new solution to an old problem.
For example, let’s say I know that I am in a relationship where every time I am around someone in particular, I get triggered into a reactive state that creates a spiral of thinking and feelings that doesn’t feel good. Its a new year. But they still sit next to me at work, or I am bound to run into them at some point. In looking at what is not working, I see that I expect them to be a healthy mind when they are not. This expectation allows me to have an open heart when I speak to them. Usually, having an open heart feels good, especially when I am around other open hearted people. But this person is not that way, and I am having a problem with them. I get surprised when this person says something mean or hurtful or annoying. I get hurt, or mad, even pissed and stir crazy, again and again every time I am around them. This is a problem for me. Keeping my heart open to a hurtful person is my part of the problem. What is not working is that I expect them to be like another of my therapist friends, a civil person who edits hurtful comments out of conversation, considers my feelings, and actually cares about having a close relationship with me. What is not working is that I am keeping my heart open in a relationship where the other person is hurtful, and cannot even value my openness. They are not working towards their own health and loving-kindness, so my open heart is in a vulnerable position with them. If I don’t do something differently, I will continue to get hurt in the same way.
My intention then could be to stand in a place of centered, protective light that has a boundary around the heart and love that I am. My intention, at base, could be to protect myself from harm, or in the positive, I could have an intention to practice self-care. How I start to protect myself, or practice self-care, are different solutions to try – creating distance, dropping expectations, loving myself in their presence, not taking in anything they say, learning to use my voice, getting into therapy to transform what is in the way of my own resolve. Different solutions are engaged in until I find one that works.
The intention I stand in reminds me of the course of action I am taking and the result that I am looking for, but the resolution is a promise to myself to find a course of action that works.
Know what your problem is, and that will lead to the solution.
I think of resolutions as a way to get serious about what I need to re-solve. I ask myself, “what do I need to solve differently” in my life? I try and identify the problem, and then think of the parts of the problem that aren’t working, and what part that I am playing within it.
When I look closely at how change occurs, the first step to creating and having something new is to find what is problematic for me. Wanting something new or different is one thing, but knowing what is in the way of that is another.
Maybe it isn’t just me. Maybe my problem is a dynamic between me and another person. Maybe I am dealing with a situation, like an addiction or an addict within my family. Perhaps I am dealing with a person who actively destroys potential harmony because they don’t even know what harmony feels like. To identify the problem though, do not look at the other person or you will not find the resolution.
One thing to consider: if the familiar is something difficult, then that can be an important part of the problem to solve. In other words, question what is familiar to you, and you will find what it is you need to change. If an argument, or way of feeling is familiar to you, then there is something in that familiarity that needs to be disintegrated until a new familiar is formed. This takes some focus and within a different kind of environment or set of relationships, and is part of why therapy works.
Looking at what it is that I am doing that I want to change is the crucial step in any resolution.
This kind of examination is what can lead to the more active, and thus intentional, forward movement that creates change.
We look for something new to shake things up. We hope that last years problems will fade away or change somehow. We make resolutions in order to change something. But if I don’t look at how I may be a part of the problem, or even take the time to identify what is going on close enough, the problem will live on because I am doing the same thing that is a part of what it is that I don’t like the result of. Learning to protect myself from harm has been one re-solutions that I work with all of the time, because as a therapist I deal with other’s pain and suffering. I cannot help others if I take on their pain as my own- I have to learn how to protect myself so that I can help transform what is problematic into a kind of solution, to be an agent of transformation, not perpetuation. It is part of my job to identify and take on the problem quite actively, but if I did that in a way that hurt me, I would not be able to sustain myself nor would I be any help to my clients. Learning how to take on problems without losing perspective or having a place to return to within me that is loving and kind is a resolution.
There are many reasons why a problem is a problem. But what I am doing that is part of my problem that I am wanting to resolve is the most effective thing to focus on. Then, I can work to re-solve it. It is worth the work, because resolving things works to bring us into a state of harmony. It is an act of disintegration and then a transformation of states, actions, and experiences.
Even in relationships where there is trauma or deep seated hurt, transformation and change can occur with enough focus on what is needed differently to create a different result. And like any great song, something in harmony can change any mood and bring a new tune to any situation. Sometimes we must just create it (and even sing it!) within ourselves, to create a new tune and tone in our lives.
Look at resolutions as a course of actions, as a set of choice points. These choice points are where you can situate yourself within an intentional state.
Re-solutions are ways to look not only forward, but actively look at what is happening right now that is not working or is not giving you what you want. Making a resolution and then living it means that you begin to move with the new course you are setting as an intentional set of new actions.
In my example for instance, my resolve could be to not be so effected by the hurtful person. When they say something hurtful or annoying, I have a choice to take on the annoyance, or to situate myself differently. My intention then would be to stay in an anchored place of grounding and heart-protection when I am around them. I may need another step as well to be able to open my heart again and with kindness when I am with someone safer and more pleasant. That would be another part of the resolution: to not be so effected means that I choose what I let in and with whom.
A resolution is like a place you return to to look at your ingredients, throwing out what isn’t working and keeping what is. Pick a solution to try with your eyes and heart set within the harmony you seek.
The intentional state then inhibits, stops, halts, or delays you in ways that pushes “pause” on behaviors, attitudes, or actions that do not lead you towards what you want.
A resolution returns you again and again towards what you do want. The new solutions become an embodiment of intent, a course of actions that leads to new results.
Whether you are wanting something different in your life, are wanting to create a new way of habituating yourself in regards to your health, or are hoping to stop an old set of actions from living on in the same way with the same results, asking yourself each day how you are re-solving it and what the problem is can lead you to new solutions. How you are living your situation differently is a process of learning and growing that I hope can lead you to something new within your life in 2016.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts: “Re-solutions to live for” and “Resolutions: How to resolve in relationships.”
Wishing you the strength and courage to move with resolve and serenity throughout 2016.