What is a resolution, really?

By this weekend, you’ll be hearing a lot about New Year’s resolutions. What people are talking about are steps that they say they will take in order to live a life more in alignment with what they want to experience from it. There are four parts to it. 

1. We have to honestly look at the life we’re living.

2. We have to realistically imagine the life we want for ourselves that isn’t too far of a stretch to be believed. For example, if I only have one or two good friends, it would probably be unrealistic to say, I resolve to become homecoming queen next year. But it is very doable to say, I will make and keep 10 more friends this year.

3. We then decide what steps we need to take in order to get from where we are to where we want to be. To go with step No. 2, I might join a school team, or go to a new after-school club of one of my interests. I could ask my friends to each introduce me to a new friend, etc.

4. Then we resolve to take them. The definition of resolution is: “a firm decision to do or not do something.”

Jonathan Mooney had severe learning disabilities and couldn’t read until he was 12. He graduated from Brown University, a top college, with honors in English. When asked what motivated him, he said that passion (meaning an intense desire or enthusiasm for something) was No. 1. So, we’d really have to have passion for step No. 2 above. He said, “Figure out what you care about and let it motivate you.” 

He also said the people needed to have “intrinsic motivation.”

He stated, “Intrinsic motivation develops from within oneself and is based on one’s true, individual passions and interests. External motivation — such as earning a gold star or top grades, conforming to the goals other people impose on you — will, at the end of the day, fail you. Adults who work with kids should encourage them, through dialogue and support, to discover their intrinsic motivation.”

He also said that sometimes anger is a motivator for him. When he was at college, he wanted to major in English literature. A school official said that with his grades, he should consider something less “intellectual.” It made Jonathan so mad that he enrolled in four English literature classes, and got a 4.0 GPA! He doesn’t recommend it for long though, as you can get off track.

Finding what we have passion for is a task only we can do for ourselves, but I found a website with some good questions at www.teenhelp.com/teen-issues/goal-setting.html :

• What do I want out of life? 

• What do I most enjoy doing? 

• What gives me joy? 

• What do I value?

• Who is someone I admire and what characteristics do they have? 

• If I could solve a world problem, what would it be? 

• What am I good at? 

• What makes me motivated? 

• Where do I see myself in five years, 10, 15, 50? 

• Where would I like to go?

These shouldn’t be rushed through. Write down your thoughts. Enjoy this. It’s always good to get to know yourself. Talk story about this with people you trust and get their feedback. Use your imagination, but be realistic.

New Year’s resolutions are usually made for a year. Many people take them very seriously, and others either don’t make them, make them too unrealistic, or just don’t have that intrinsic motivation to keep at it when they are really tempted to break them.

Nobody is going to be checking whether you are successful or not in keeping your resolutions. You are making them to live a better life. You are the winner if you keep it or the loser if you don’t. These days, there is so much help. You can reach out to your friends, or probably find a YouTube video that can help you do whatever you want.

As people have come forward sharing their needs and asking for help, we seem to be becoming a more compassionate and understanding human race. It’s wonderful. And if people put you down hurtfully, they’re bullies. We know that they feel bad about themselves, and that you can get help from schools, churches, counselors, and the police if necessary to deal with them. Bullying is harassment, and against the law.

“If you don’t change anything, nothing changes.” Many people have said that, or something similar. It’s logical. So if your life is going really well, and you’re peaceful and happy with it, keep doing what you’re doing. You might resolve that if things stop feeling great, you’ll take the time to look at what doesn’t feel right, and take some steps to change it.

About 15 years ago, I noticed that at our family parties there always seemed to be some misunderstanding and each person in the misunderstanding tried to get other family members to take their side. Also, people would criticize another person in the guise of offering helpful suggestions. I really wanted that to change. So before the next family Christmas party, I emailed “Roberts’ Rules of Order” (a pun because our family name is Roberts) to everyone. These rules included things like:

• Don’t offer helpful suggestions unless you ask the person first if he/she wants to hear them.

• If two people in the family get into an argument, and one comes to you, don’t take sides. Tell them to go talk to the person they are having the problem with. This year when someone came to me, I told her it was my job to love everyone, because I believed that in time they would work everything out, and I hoped that my love for both would help them resolve their differences. Another way to look at it is: Who wants to be on the outs with the one whose side you didn’t take?

• No talking behind another’s back.

• People change. Get each other “out of the box” you had them in. Listen to each other respectfully to see who you really are right now. Please don’t interrupt, or correct their grammar or use of words.

• Remember that we can’t really judge anyone, so don’t bother. Just enjoy them. Blaming is a form of judging.

• It is better to ask questions of a person you think did something, or thinks a certain way, than to accuse them of it. Ask first.

• Let everyone know that you love them, and that they are important to you.

• That year we had such a wonderful time with each other. When my mother died 12 years later, I found her copy, and my sister showed me hers. It was a good thing for our family.

• Make your own rules if you need to, or maybe yours are the most loving, giving, peaceful gatherings. I truly hope so, and that you have many of them. Wishing you the best year ever!


Annaleah Atkinson is a volunteer with Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i, a support group for teens and their families. Email your questions or concerns to aatkinson@haleopio.org.


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