Reclaiming “Resolutions” for Truly Transformative Progress

On the first day of the new year, I had a small group over to my 4th floor walk-up in downtown New York to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens – more than 5 pounds of collard greens, in fact. Apparently, we are hungry for the good fortune they are supposed to bring. As E. B. White famously wrote, “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”

While we ate, we each wrote down an intention for the New Year to add to a communal pot. A friend asked, “What’s the difference between intentions and resolutions?

My take: “resolutions” have gotten a bad rap – they feel at best like a superficial social ritual

Resolutions, Intentions, or.... Rulin's? (a la Woody Guthrie)

used to sell gym memberships, and at worst like a burdensome “should” that kills the spirit of play in our creative, productive endeavors.

“Intentions” shakes off all that bad juju to suggest an active, voluntary commitment to a unique personal goal or ethos for the year.

But truthfully, I felt a little wishy-washy even as I defended the new term. Yes, intentions are more gentle on the soul. But sometimes, what’s needed is true resolve. Is real transformation ever truly gentle?

I thought about that again on January 2, when I set out for my first run of 2012. Two years ago I launched MyThousandMileYear.com, a year-long blogging project to document my attempt to run 1000 miles in 2010. (This past year my friend Amy took over the site to run her thousand miles so you’d have to go back in the archives to see any of my posts. I made it to 900-something miles before getting benched by tendon trouble.)

The Thousand Mile Year was a very concrete goal that I executed with a high level of accountability and personal investment, thanks to the blog. I was resolved, very resolved, and as a result, I changed my physical life and sense of identity indelibly. I became a runner that year, and it’s a gift that I continue to be grateful for.

One other revelation came out of my January gathering: Sharing goals with a group of friends – some of whom may be from your official professional network, but have become part of your intentional network – is an incredibly nurturing experience, as is hosting. It is your opportunity to feel the physical reality of your self-curated support network. When they’re dispersed, it can be harder to feel the safety net. But believe me, it’s there.

Here’s to building that support network even stronger in 2012 – by helping them to achieve their goals, as you humbly but purposefully work on your own.

On that, I’m resolved.

How about you? Are you in the intentions or resolutions camp? Either way, what’s your first step?

Sara Grace is myGreenlight’s Program Director.

Comments (5)

  1. Love this! You are right – transformation is never a pretty process — ask a butterfly. Whether you resolve or intend, you still have to align your actions towards a goal. Regardless of the term, it means there’s going to be some sweat equity involved, how we market and lobby for that change within ourselves is our choice.

  2. “Is real transformation ever truly gentle?” something worth pondering a long while. I’m pro-gentleness when possible. I love the idea of resolutions as being a group activity– the group’s help in making them stick, and not simply the individual… this seems more gentle :-) than the ‘sheer will-and-grit’ model, although those clearly have their place, too.

    • Kate, I think that I’m constantly going back and forth between wanting gentle and wanting sheer-will-and-grit – symbolized in my moving back and forth between running and yoga; being encouraged by intentions vs resolutions; wanting to relax vs wanting to DO! Thanks for commenting.

  3. I like the idea of intentions – they sound more integrated and less superficial. At the end of the day, the label probably doesn’t matter as much as really believing that change is possible and under your control.

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