I’m not at all a fan of New Year’s resolutions. People buying gym memberships, cleaning out their cupboards of junk food, buying bookshelves of self-help books.
In a few weeks, it all fails.
I’ve never had a New Years resolution fail. (Then again, I don’t recall ever making one.)
But, I’ve also rarely had any resolution fail.
It all begins with a story.
I was sixteen at the time, struggling with my spiritual identity. I was, like many portly dieteers, struggling with keeping commitments. I’d decide to commune with God daily through prayer, only to lapse into silence.
But help was on the way in the form of EFY (especially for youth). I’ve mentioned it before–it’s a Bible camp of sorts for Mormon youth. I’d assumed my life would be changed, only I didn’t anticipate how.
For four days, we listened to talks, participated in team-building activities, and spent time with our scriptures under the tutelage of a pair of hip ‘n happening counselors. Then Thursday came around
Thursday was testimony meeting.
They say real men don’t cry. Well…put about fifteen dudes in a cramped dormitory and ask them to share their feelings of Jesus, and sooner or later, optical faucets will drip.
And there was Greg. (I actually don’t remember his name, but we’ll stick with Greg). The dude was one of them macho fellows that was too proud to let a serious moment remain without cracking a joke or saying something flippant. After we each took our turn to stand and express our feelings about spiritual things, he surprised us all by standing. Eyes wet, voice a-trembling, the dude gave a powerful testimony about how nothing matters but family. Nothing matters but doing what’s right.
Silence followed as we all sat, contemplative. I felt as if I swam in a thick pond of peace. The air itself seemed to cackle with spiritual energy. Everything about that feeling, about that night was so right, so perfect. I saw what mattered and what didn’t matter. I saw myself, not for who I was, but for who I could become.
Our counselor stood and gave us a talk I’d never forget.
“Gentleman,” he said. “We’ve all felt this, haven’t we? We’ve all felt the stirrings of angels and had that same overpowering desire to be different. But what hurts is knowing that half of you, if not more than half, within a week or two, will start hanging out with those same old friends, fall into those same bad habits, listen to that same music, watch those same movies. It hurts when you all fall back into the lives you used to live. Well, I’m sick of it. I’m not going to let it happen again. So right here, right now, we are all going to kneel in prayer and make a binding commitment to God and to each other that we will never go back. That today, we will change forever.”
We all knelt as our counselor offered a moving prayer. In unison, we all gave our deepest commitment to never be the same again.
And I wasn’t.
Few days pass without me thinking about what happened on a Thursday night in some tiny dormitory at some small college in Washington State fifteen years ago. That one hour, that one commitment, that one brotherhood that changed my life forever.
Why did it work?
Good question. Let me first answer why change doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because we don’t mean it. We might get excited, sure. We might want to change, but then the time will come when we don’t want to change–when change is too hard and the price too great to pay.
Then we realize (or rationalize) that our first commitment didn’t really mean anything. We decide that a commitment to ourselves is worth breaking.
That’s the problem–we cheapen the meaning of our own commitment.
But what if, instead of haphazardly making commitments that we’re probably going to break, instead we actually treated those personal commitments as if they were as binding as an executive order from the highest judge who controlled the most powerful army? What if we preferred the agony of enduring when it’s hardest to endure over the torture of failing to keep a commitment to ourselves? What if we’d rather die than fail to be honest with ourselves?
That, my friends, is the sort of commitment that will make lasting change.
You may be thinking, “ummm, well, if my personal commitment means that much, I’ll probably never make commitments.”
You’re right. Or at least, you’ll make them a whole lot less frequently.
That’s where I’m at. I’m horribly non-committal. Why? Because if I say I’m going to do it, I want to do it–I have to do it.
I will do it.
That’s the cost of true commitment, my friends.
But the result? True change. Rather than focusing on a thousand commitments that only last as long as our motivation, we can spend all that energy focusing on that one commitment that truly means something. Then when our motivation fails, our endurance will not. And we persist in doing what matters until it becomes habit.
Then we move on to the next commitment.
Slow progress. But certain progress.
Why I don’t like New Year’s resolutions
Yes, back to that. Here’s why I don’t like New Year’s resolutions: In order to make such a binding commitment, I have to be unequivocally determined, unfailingly committed, and certain that I will succeed.
And in order to be so determined, I must be inspired.
Let that word linger for a bit–inspired.
To succeed, we must make a binding commitment. To make a binding commitment, we have to mean it. To mean it, we have to be truly inspired.
I can’t count on that sort of inspiration to happen in the next six months, let alone on a specific day and a specific time.
So instead, I wait. Like a lion hiding in the bushes, I’m waiting for that stirring of inspiration to come–that consuming need to be different. And when the inspiration comes, I let it fill my thoughts, my dreams, my desires until I have to have it.
Then I pounce–I make the commitment.
(Though sometimes, I actively wait for the inspiration to come and do things I know will bring the motivation to me).
I’m still here, aren’t I? And sometimes, it is incredibly painful to endure. Like, you have no idea how much I loathe writing at times when I feel like everything I write is terrible and want nothing more than to fall back into my bed and let my silence speak for itself.
Yet I do write.
Because I refuse to fail myself. To fail myself is far worse than lifting the burden of having to blog.
And some day, it will be worth it. Some day, we’ll look back and see where we were and where we are now. We’ll remember the metaphorical bumps, the bruises, the bloody noses, the scars and remember thinking how desperately we wanted to give up. But we see how we kept going. And we’ll realize that, although we emerged from change battered, we also emerged better.
How about you? When has changed happen for you? Why did it work?