Why Our Egos Need Resolutions

resolutions

New Year’s resolutions. Good. Bad. Indifferent?

Lately I have been reading a fair amount around the notion of not setting New Year’s resolutions. That there is no point. Why set a resolution so boldly on Day One only to abandon it by the end of the second — or first —week of the year?

Many are suggesting we set “intentions” instead?

I’ve heard the road to hell is paid with them, so…

We Had Winners:

My high school alma mater had one, and only one, Valedictorian.”

If you are in midlife and beyond, there were winners and there were losers when we grew up. There were individuals who ranked first. And first was a singular position.

My high school alma mater had one, and only one, Valedictorian. Now did this mean no one else had straight A’s across all four years? Did this imply that only one of our classmates scored almost a near perfect SAT score? Nope. It strictly meant there could be only one FIRST. And, we were all okay with that. 

Nowadays, at least in the high schools where I live, there are 20 to 30 Valedictorians. What message does that send?

Gen-X Parenting:

Are we dumbing down our competitiveness?”

Taking a look backward at my son’s childhood, I remember endless summer camps, after-school activities and sporting events — and I’m sure I’m not alone in that busy recollection. Many of us GenX-type parents were keen to heavily schedule our children, rather than let them run loose in the hood.

It seemed that at the end of any one of these pursuits there was some sort of award or acknowledgement ceremony. It also seemed, if memory serves, that almost every kid (if not EVERY kid) got one. I mean, seriously, acknowledgement just for showing up?

OK, I digress. Promise to tie all this nonsense back together again… hopefully, somewhere in this essay.

My big question: Are we dumbing down our competitiveness? And is that good, bad, or neutral?

What I mean by that is I worry that by making it all okay, or letting ourselves “off the hook” from making promises, setting goals, and measuring our success to achieve them, that we are setting ourselves up to underperform.

Shameless Is Better:

So I get that we don’t want to shame anyone or potentially make them feel bad about themselves if they don’t score goals in the Pee Wee soccer game. Or that we don’t want to split hairs to find the one Valedictorian in the mix. But do we really want to make it okay for ourselves to fail to meet our desired goals and objectives?

By saying “My intention is to create better sleep habits for myself” versus“ I resolve to create better sleep habits for myself,” one creates a loophole by which to escape the commitment. Subtle, yes, but language is critical and can subliminally impact our actions. It’s far easier to claim, “Well, I had good intentions.” We can’t measure it. It’s the ribbon for just showing up.

And maybe some want to live in a world where just showing up yields a blue ribbon. Not to go all Ayn Rand on you all, but I worry that we create an environment in which people lose incentive to excel. 

Enter Ego:

The ego is overly concerned with our individual success — it fights to set itself apart from the fray.”

LIke it or not, we have egos. The word “ego” is the Latin word for “I.” This implies that we are motivated to act in our own self-interest. Some religions and cultures teach that the ego gets in the way of our happiness.The ego is overly concerned with our individual success — it fights to set itself apart from the fray. Our ego pushes us to be better than… yes, better than others — though some construe that as negative.

My contention is that striving to be better benefits society as a whole. I believe that the merit-based blue ribbon winners make the world a better place for us all – even for those who come in last place. My guess is that when I say “last place,” many of you will cringe. We all place last in something. But we all place first in something as well. 

So what do we do? Can intentions coexist with resolutions? Do we need to be one team versus the other?

Changing the conversation from pursuing a specific endpoint result to enjoying the journey sounds appealing. However, I believe intentions have a higher likelihood of being fulfilled with some measurable resolutions/plans to get there. It may be wonderful to set an intention to be healthier, but what does that actually mean? How will you get there? And, equally important, how do we know we actually are healthier?

Peter Gollwitzer, a professor at New York University who specializes in the psychology of goal setting, says that people who engage in planning how to achieve a set goal are about three times more likely to succeed than people who leave it at mere goal setting. By adding the “how,” we’re setting measurable mileposts, points along the path to successfully achieving the goal. And if you can’t measure it, is it happening?

Resolutions Can Be Helpful:

Resolutions are typically clearly defined, specific, and measurable.”

This is why resolutions can be helpful. Resolutions are typically clearly defined, specific, and measurable. To me it’s an indicator of how well I am doing living my intention. And despite the glaring opportunity for complete failure (isn’t this why we get in a frenzy about setting these suckers to begin with?), I think setting resolutions is key to attaining our intentions. 

Maybe the answer is stop making wild-ass unattainable resolutions under the influence of our New Year’s Eve cocktail. Maybe, instead, we first sit and figure out our intentions. Then we can plan ahead and create those resolutions to support our journey forward. What if we let intentions and resolutions share the glory come next January? Now that’s a blue-ribbon plan.

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4 thoughts on “Why Our Egos Need Resolutions

  1. Cat Coluccio says:

    Great article Jack, and I totally hear you re measureable goals / resolutions.
    As well, whilst our kids shouldn’t be shamed for things they are not so good at, at the same time, those who have worked and excelled should be able to experience the thrill of being rewarded and acknowledged for their accomplishments.

  2. Marijke says:

    Interesting article. I feel it addresses two related yet different topics- competitiveness and resolutions/intentions. New year resolutions or goals at any time of the year have little chance of being successful without a plan of action that is measurable. And most people don’t have one.
    My oldest was two years at a primary school where sports days were non competitive. Reason being to protect the kids that were less good at sports. Watching it raised questions about why doing this as the kids seemed less motivated. Completion is to my opinion a good thing. It shows kids that, if you don’t have a natural talent, you need to do some work. And if you do that you may get better results.

  3. Nipa | Fashionipa says:

    I struggled with New Year’s Resolutions for a few years before I discovered the one-word resolution. I prefer it because it’s easy to remember, flexible and more of an inspiration than a “to-do”. I always choose an action word – this year – it’s move. Some days it’s about moving my body, other days moving forward with a project or moving on from something that isn’t working. It has worked for me for 6 years now. xo Nipa

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