Finding Harmony with New Year’s Resolutions

Finding Harmony with New Year’s Resolutions

Now that it’s almost February, I wonder how everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is going.  Maybe you don’t participate in this tradition but many do.  Setting a goal is admirable and following through is challenging.  Despite one’s intention to whole-heartedly establish a commitment to the goal, often what’s required to take a novel and idealistic desire for improvement to fruition is complex.  So, now that we are about 20 days in, it’s possible that refinement of the goal itself, the process taken to get to the goal, or a reflection of one’s true needs, values, and abilities, are warranted.  In my experience this kind of approach to one’s situation coming from past to present conditions mindfully, in a way to propel a path to the future-you you seek, is at the core of a quality meditation practice.  Actively implementing that takes skill, talent, and professional guidance. That’s why I find practicing Harmony Meditation invaluable. With our Grandmaster and community of practitioners that look forward to continued creation of healing, success, and harmonious support, despite the obstacles and challenges present, I feel that there is no way I can give up.  

According to, “despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement (which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on). According to recent research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. But that dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon—after all, we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice.”  Furthermore, Forbes Health published survey results on December 19, 2023, noting popular resolutions for this year.  “The survey found that overall, 45% of respondents noted an improvement in mental health as one of their top New Year’s resolutions, compared to 39% who said improved fitness, 37% who want to lose weight and 33% who cited improved diet.”  The act of creating a resolution does not guarantee the outcomes and yet we continue this practice.  It’s also interesting to note how resolutions show us what people feel they would like to improve.  If these resolutions are a true need or desire then one would assume that the goal is achievable for more than 8% of those deciding on their resolution, and many of us fall into this kind of thinking for our own goals in general.  

In a separate survey, Forbes Health found that “the average resolution lasts just 3.74 months. Only 8% of respondents tend to stick with their goals for one month, while 22% last two months, 22% last three months and 13% last four months.”  We know the reasons these goals go abandoned after some time.  We’ve all been there at least once.  The goal itself may be desirable enough to ignite our passion and commitment but soon life and time takes over.  There’s the current habits, the required habits, the outcomes we want, and the behavior changing process we undergo. I personally have not had long-term success toward goals without accountability partners, structured scheduling, and prioritization of tasks to complete.  Then there’s practice, practice, practice, and more practice.  Some grace is required.  Then more practice, practice, and again practice.  There’s a lot to be said for taking an invisible intention and placing it physically into the space you’re in through movement, energy, and action.  Anyone who knows me knows I make to-do lists.  What they do not know is that I started completing tasks on lists in grade school and I didn’t really understand what I was doing or what I had done with this habit up to now, but repeatedly, I had decided that when I would put something to paper, it was to be.  As our younger generations say now, “Period.”  I could be flexible with myself but I did not allow myself the option to not complete it, once it was listed.  

At the meditation center, I once had a fellow practitioner ask me, “How did you get your twin daughters motivated to run?”  We were training for the annual downtown 5K summer event.  I thought for a second and began to respond, but then I realized that he did not know my family, my household, or the dynamics of us as a family.  So I stopped myself and instead explained, “Well, first of all, when something is agreed upon and decided, there’s no turning back.”  As a parent and an educator, I learned long ago that a big part of being a provider of a safe and comforting space for youngsters is directly affected by reliability, responsibility, open communication, and honesty.  Kids love the predictability an adult provides when they do what they say and they say what they do.  Especially when children are teenagers and they can verbalize their thinking and emotions, they can tell you, and they generally do not appreciate an adult who is not reliable, respectful, responsible, and honest.  In my professional experience with children and teenagers for over 25 years now, these traits in their experience directly affects their level of reciprocated respect, trustworthiness, and feeling taken care of, and safe.  

During one of the Grandmaster’s Heal to Heal workshops recently, participants were asked to write down what they disliked most.  I wrote betrayal, then self-betrayal, and then not being true to myself.  It’s compelling that my disdain for this type of behavior might be at the root cause for having such a strong mindset, attitude, and expansive repertoire of examples supporting the practice for the opposite.  Literally, finishing what I had started, had become ingrained in my being.  With that said, some things are most definitely harder than others to face, accomplish, and achieve.  Again, that’s why the expert guidance I get at the center has become a beacon for my future-self.  Another example of a recent realization I had as a result of my practice there happened during tai chi class.  We were learning a new step sequence with hand motion that required walking forward with a slow movement and so it also required much balance, concentration, and muscle control.  While trying to replicate the Grandmaster’s example, he asked us, “Do you feel this in your thighs?”  I responded, “I feel it in my shins.”  While he was correcting my stance and foot placement, I could tell that my torso had been leaning forward.  He told me to adjust my lower back and I could sense the shift in my weight on my feet, legs, and lower back.  I felt stronger, better poised, and was able to move more fluidly as a result.  I responded out loudly in class, because the learning received from that was powerful, “Oh! I was rushing to go forward. I was in a hurry.”  

When one creates to-do lists, prides herself on getting “it done,” and doesn’t accept, acknowledge, and appreciate certain limitations of time, life, unpredictability, and lack of control, one can fool themselves into thinking that if they just hurry up to get “it done” then that’s all that’s required.  I had made this same mistake over and over again.  The Grandmaster reminded me gently, “Right!  What are you doing?”  I was indeed getting “it done.”  I was in the mindset of getting somewhere.  Imagine being on a date with someone at dinner and what they were most interested in was to get through the dinner so that it was done.  That can’t be a pleasant date for either party.  Can it?  Therefore, in a very similar fashion, the process was lost on me from the start.  Once I adjusted myself, my mindset, and my appreciation for the opportunity to do so, the exercise was remarkable.  My breathing had steadied.  My arms felt in sync with my legs.  I could sense how centered I had become despite being in constant motion.  I was enjoying the process and I was processing the process.  I was no longer thinking about the outcome at all.  I could take one step at a time.  I could focus on myself and the feedback I was getting from my body was energizing, flowing, and peaceful.  It was harmonious and I didn’t have to think much about my next steps and how long it would take to get there.  It is with the utmost appreciation and gratitude that I can confidently say that in that moment, I was my truest self.  I really enjoyed it.  

Some have tried to address the lack of commitment and follow through to their resolutions by tweaking the resolutions made.  In an attempt at a different kind of resolution, Roger Rosenblatt, for example, asked students, “What will you do — right now, this week, this month — to make a better world?”  In the New York Times guest essay, “This Year, Make a Resolution About Something Bigger Than Yourself,” rather than making the self-oriented promises typical of New Year’s resolutions, he suggested turning our attention to others.  “Lend a hand,” he wrote.  “Offer a word of comfort or inspiration or support or love.  Donate money or, most valuable of all, time.  There are so many ways to move this world, right within reach.”  The students’ responses to the guest essay captured in What Students Are Saying About New Year’s Resolutions show thoughtful approaches to the suggestion.  It is also evident however, that some students found it equally important to continue to focus resolutions around self-improvement.  In particular, Emily from Hoggard High School contributed, “Self-improvement could be about weight, like mentioned in the essay, but being comfortable in your body leads to someone being happy, and happy people lead to the world becoming a better place.”

According to an interview with Donald Edmondson, associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia’s Irving Medical Center, published in Columbia News, “It’s not surprising that tying resolutions to deep-seated values helps people make lasting change. One of the most effective techniques used by healthcare workers to spark behavior change is motivational interviewing, which is rooted in the theory that change happens when people identify their core motivations, and how their current behaviors may be misaligned with them.”  So, reflecting on how my past attempts to solve problems through getting things done and checking items off of lists might worsen things for me, can help me to learn from my failures and my successes.  In Psychology Today, further light is shed on how mental traps can sometimes pose a challenge for us, “For instance, if we believe that abstinence and avoiding food will assist in losing weight, the likelihood is that the more we abstain from eating the more we lose control of our appetite, so the solution in that situation usually perpetuates weight gain.”  So, even with deep-seated values in play one must have wisdom beyond their habits and their goals.  It is not enough to simply implement a long standing tradition in a different way because there can be flawed thinking like traps in establishing the exercise.  Another common trap-like experience we can highlight is in the saying: No good deed goes unpunished.  We want to help ourselves and others and we want to do what’s best for ourselves and others.  Yet, it’s much more complicated when we are misaligned.  No wonder people have such a low success rate when sticking to their resolutions.  

For those looking to further their potential beyond motivation, beyond what’s expected probability-wise, and beyond what’s been communicated and evidenced throughout history, in terms of sustainable change for self-improvement and growth, there’s more to it than what you think.  I fooled myself into believing all I needed to create a good habit forward was to exercise the habit and repeat it.  It was counterintuitive to think that releasing a good habit could be good for me to reach my goals.  However, in practice, in that instance when I was implementing the process, it was obvious that my usually good habit was actually getting in my way.  Furthermore, reflection of one’s true needs, values, and abilities, are required for a full picture of what exactly is being accomplished over time.  Actively implementing that takes skill, talent, perspective, and professional guidance. That’s why I find practicing Harmony Meditation invaluable. With our Grandmaster and community of practitioners, we look forward to continued creation of healing, success, and harmonious support, despite the obstacles and challenges present.  I feel that there is no way I can’t thrive as a result.  Just like a teenager who wants and looks for an adult role-model.  I want myself to be a reliable, reasonable, wise, and flexible role-model for myself.  So, this process, my reflections, and what is learned here is about new year’s resolutions, but to me, it’s also about so much more. 

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