New Year’s Resolutions vs. Re-solutioning

By: Rich Liotta, Ph.D.

With the New Year just arriving I was considering the word “resolution” and how some of the psychological implications of this word may not be helpful. “Re-solutioning” is perhaps a more effective term to direct you toward a useful path for change. The words we use and how we understand them impacts how we think and the subsequent actions that we take. It is often these unconscious shifts in meaning, such as from resolution to re-solutioning, that can send you in a more productive direction.

A New Year’s resolution is usually thought of as something like “a firm decision to do or not do something (The New Oxford American Dictionary)” or a decision to do something or to behave in a certain way. Unconsciously this meaning suggests that just making the decision will somehow magically make it come true. If that is true for you, great! For most people, however, it does not work that way. A resolution is static, it has no life, no energy, no movement; whereas whatever you are trying to change is active and alive. Active and alive wins! Resolutions falter and fade and whatever we wanted to change may stumble for a moment but then finds it’s stride again. No wonder resolutions fail and we get discouraged. Also Resolution does not imply a past or a plan. It takes whatever we want to achieve out of context, unsupported by the past and not anticipating the future.

One the other hand, re-solutioning puts the intent back into perspective with richer and more helpful implications. It is not static. It suggests activity, movement, and energy-into the future. Re-solutioning appreciates that change is a process, resolution does not. Re-solutioning also acknowledges the past, the history of the challenge facing you, and solutions you have tried. Re-solutioning leads the mind in more helpful direction. Re-solutioning suggests action, persistence, and adjusting course if needed, rather than magic. It is a more useful frame from which you can implement a plan, seek support, visualize your desired outcome, and all the other recommendations regarding being successful with this annual tradition, or with making changes in general.

Another important idea to consider is this: in some way what you are doing now and want to change has been a solution for you! This is not how most people think about behaviors they want to change, but it is well worth the effort to honestly introspect and discover how the behavior you want to change has been a solution for you. Ask yourself “How is the behavior I want to change a solution for me?” For instance, perhaps overeating is a solution because it soothes you. Perhaps smoking is a solution because it relaxes you. Perhaps procrastination is a solution because it feels good compared to facing what you should do. The solution you have been living, however undesirable, has done something for you. So changing successfully involves re-solutioning, such as finding a different way to soothe yourself, relax, and feel good. Similarly, if what you are doing now is filling some need, then that need must be addressed to effectively change the unwanted behavior. So respect that what you want to change was a solution, perhaps with undesired consequences, but it was a solution nonetheless. Then you will be more prepared to find better solutions and be ready to start re-solutioning.

Resolution may be what you want in the future, but Re-solutioning is what you do now. Save the resolution for the appropriate time. For instance, “I’ve been re-solutioning my weight issue for a while now, I’ve changed my habits, I’ve found other ways to soothe myself; I’m really feeling a sense of resolution.” Re-solutioning can start anytime, any day is as good as any other, so make the decision and take the actions necessary to make it happen.

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