Let's Get Psyched: A Gentler Type of Resolution

by Randy Kiel | January 12, 2021

Deacon Randy Kiel

Only a few things are as deeply embedded into our collective psyche as New Year’s resolutions. 

How long has history seen this custom? It is known that over 4,000 years ago, when the Babylonians would celebrate their new year in March, they would make promises to their gods, mostly to be released from debts and illnesses.

Have we changed much? We can have fun with a New Year’s resolution but let’s not take them too seriously.

If you have chosen to make one, make sure it brings pleasure and satisfaction, not misery and regret. Most often, we make resolutions in regards to things with which we struggle. The struggle doesn’t go away because we’ve made a resolution; it usually intensifies the struggle.

There can be a cultural pressure to make resolutions each year. But if you're putting off your resolutions for each new year, it may become a chronic set up for failure. According to Forbes, of those who do make a New Year's resolution, less than 25 percent stick with them after just 30 days, and only 8 percent actually follow through on their resolutions. My guess is that the numbers weren't much different for our Babylonian ancestors.

Change vs. constant is a dilemma that can become quite confusing in our lives. We have repeatedly seen people and societies attempt to change a constant and/or make a constant that which needs to be changed.

Two examples of this are as follows.

First is the health and look of the human body. The human body is both healthy and prone to disease and illness at the same time. This is a constant. Marketing efforts galore have attempted to persuade, if not even program us, that health and beauty are attainable as a constant, especially if you “use our products.”  We talk about health abundantly, but somehow we drop the ball when following through, yours truly included. We humans are a combination of health, growth, and decline.

Second is the existence of God. He is the supreme constant but trends of atheism and Gnosticism attempt to change even his existence, which is itself not a new effort.

It is of no surprise that we have a lousy track record at keeping these types of resolutions.

So, why do we even bother making resolutions in the first place? The problem with most resolutions is that they are commonly a want, wish, or vague idea based on the imagination’s response to a perceived or real problem.

Resolutions tend to jump to the end of the story rather than trying to shape the narrative needed to accomplish the goal. It's not that we shouldn't have lofty goals, but goals are outcomes; resolutions are realistic actions for the sake of a process. A good resolution is one that focuses on and accepts the responsibilities of its process.

If a New Year's resolution is to lose 10 pounds, pay off credit card debt, write a book, build a business, or to grow spiritually, then be careful. Some people respond to their resolutions as though the only joy is in the achievement of that end goal.

This is a set up for psychological disaster! Too often, the tension to accomplish the goal will cause the person to despise the process and discipline that stands between them and that goal.

What if instead of focusing on a goal, we focused on embracing the activities that bring us closer to the objective? This is to live life well for the sake of Christ, right?

Resolutions aren't destinations; they are the habits and behaviors that give us the ability to move toward our objective destinations. When we look back on life, it's the discipline of those consistent habits that have paved the long and sometimes rocky road to where we are today. In the spiritual journey with Christ, there are no dead ends!

Mankind’s need for a faith structure is a constant throughout history.

Psychologically, the mental construct of reductionism minimizes our spiritual life to a resolution. Spiritually, this becomes a construct of perceived failure. We are spiritual in nature; we cannot fail spiritually.

If we are ever inclined to measure our spiritual life in terms of an accomplished goal, let’s recognize that we are most likely being ideological.

So, should we set goals for ourselves? Yes, if we recognize that the goal is secondary to the process of achieving its objective. Perhaps better yet, if we aspire to live our life more prayerfully as unto Christ and the life with which he has so lovingly gifted to each one of us, then sainthood would be the ultimate objective or resolution.

Randy Kiel

Randy Kiel is the founder of Kardia Counseling and is a deacon serving at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Des Moines, Iowa. To connect with Deacon Randy, email randy@kardiacounseling.com.