What does it mean to make New Years Resolutions?

Do they ever work? Many a New Year’s Resolution fails to flourish and there are several reasons.

Like most people, I have made and then forgotten about, or even sabotaged, many New Year’s Resolutions. As someone aspiring to the tenets ‘Mean what you say’ (Lewis Carroll) and ‘Be impeccable with your word’ (Don Miguel Ruiz), this doesn’t sit well.

Mine were often created with great excitement, which I mistook for commitment. The intensity had me believing that I truly meant what I was saying and was being impeccable with my word, until my lack of action demonstrated that I wasn’t. Oops!

To really mean what we say, we should know what we mean when saying it.

The Oxford English Dictionary offers eight meanings for the word ‘resolution’.

  • The first four meanings I’ve found are necessary conditions for a new year’s resolution to develop any real momentum at all
  • The other four provide further nuances to improve chances of success.

The following checklist applies those eight possible meanings of the word ‘resolution’ to the process of intentional goal setting:

                        Dictionary Meaning                                                                       Suggested Checklist

1. Being resolute (determined, unwavering, having firmness of purpose)1. Have you really decided to follow through with this unwaveringly – even in the face of adversity, challenges or obstacles?
2. A firm decision, formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body2. Was it a firm decision involving your (external and internal) stakeholders and have you told them?
3. Resolving of a problem or dispute3. Are you free of any doubts or other conflicting feelings or agendas concerning your intention?
4. (Music) Passing of a discord (lack of agreement/harmony) into a concord (agreement, harmony) sounding and feeling better4. If there was some degree of discord, where are you in the process of working with the elements involved, to produce a feeling of harmony?
5. (Medicine) Disappearance of a symptom or condition5. What is the healing benefit in your decision to move forward with this?
6. The process of reducing or separating into components6. Can you seeing a pathway, mind-map or plan of action?
7. The smallest interval measurable by telescope or other scientific instrument7. How will you measure change and celebrate incremental steps?
8. The degree of detail visible in a photographic, television or computer image8 Can you visualize with clarity the new state of…… (being, feeling, having, doing, seeing, hearing etc.) that you are creating?

It’s not surprising that when people take an early-stage idea and force it too quickly into a set of ‘SMART’ goals, the project is likely doomed to failure!

Without the resolution of our inner discord into an aligned, purposeful, clearly stated and deeply felt commitment to action, our idea has a slim chance of becoming a reality!

NOTE: an apparent self-sabotage should not be something to berate ourselves about. There may be reasons that are not simply lame excuses or laziness. These reasons are not always apparent at the time. When we find out later that the thing we thought we should have done was really not aligned with what we found out later, to be a preferred and more satisfying path, we can do ourselves a favour be reframing that earlier ‘failure’ as a ‘Sacred Sabotage’. This very important distinction will be the subject of another post.

Sue Tsigaros works with leaders who are on a mission. She has a unique ability to create a safe space for people to see themselves clearly, embrace what they are already creating and determine how to manifest their mission.


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High impact conversations that transform people and companies. Sue loves working with leaders on a mission, to untap their full potential. Her specialties include entrepreneurship, leadership, integration, transformation, and growth.


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