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Resolves & Resolutions

by David Truman

How many New Years resolutions are kept? Probably not many. And most likely, the track record for the resolves we make at other times throughout the year isn't much better. So naturally, we get more jaded about making and breaking resolves with each passing year.

Of course it's demoralizing to make and break vows. No wonder we feel like giving up on resolves altogether, saying, "I know myself well enough to know that I won't keep my resolves. Why set myself up for disappointment? I won't suffer the pain of breaking resolutions if I don't make any." Fair enough! But do you know yourself well enough to know that NONE of that sits well with you?

Since it doesn't, rather than fear that cycle, maybe we need to fix it. Surely, the ability to set and achieve goals is too important -- not just on New Years, but all year long, in all parts of life -- to throw away lightly.

No matter how many resolves we've made and broken, our ability to make and keep resolves is still alive and well. We just need to understand and direct it better.

Look at these two facts:

1. The decision to "make no resolves" is a resolve. We're always making resolves, just as we are always choosing. Since we have the power to choose better, why not use it? Could it be that we fall for this trap:

Ego's limiting assertion: "You can choose anything you want -- UNLESS it's a choice for the better."

Ego has an insidious way of chopping people down over time. Whenever we find a flaw or weakness in ourselves, ego tries to convince us to accept the shortcoming as permanent, irreversible -- a limitation we're supposed to learn to live within. That way, through one reductive cycle of acceptance after another, the ego gets us to feel less and less functional as time goes on. One day, we just might give up on being a nice person altogether. Is that why Granny got so grouchy?

Beware of the limbo dance. The lower we set our sights, the longer it takes to get back to the higher values upon which our well-being depends. That's why lowering the bar puts us in limbo until we raise it back up again.

2. The resolve to make no resolves is actually a thinly-disguised choice to avoid higher choices -- ostensibly for the purpose of avoiding disappointment. But, to limit oneself to lower choices is, in itself, the world's greatest disappointment. What's more, it's downright disempowering. It denies our ability to make the higher choices upon which our greater happiness depends. Horrors!

We have no need to take the ego's advice -- and choose to confine ourselves to lower choices. We absolutely can choose anew -- freely. That's what spiritual evolution is all about! We need to stick to our guns:

Spirit's response to ego's limiting assertion: "Oh yeah? Free will is God's greatest gift to us: It's a power that we always have, and always USE. Free will means we can choose ANYTHING -- including for the better.

As God's children, we all have an appointment with God -- with our own higher destiny. There's no disappointment greater than "not being able" to keep that eternal appointment. We may as well acknowledge that only better choices can give us the satisfaction we want. The only way to truly avoid disappointment is to pursue higher aspirations, embrace improved actions, and make better presumptions.

We can hold true to higher choices, and keep higher resolves. And spiritually, we certainly need that "win" -- and always will. Here are four tips to ensure your success in making higher resolves, and keeping them.

Choose goals your heart and soul can feel good about

Exercise your freedom to choose consistently

Accept your goodness as your starting point -- not merely as your destination

Watch out what you want

TIP #1: Choose goals your heart and soul can feel good about.

We doubt our powers only as long as our choices do not bring our powers out. What kind of choices invoke our powers? Good choices! A good choice makes us feel good, and gives us the energy that comes from feeling good.

But more than that, a good choice enlivens our spirit. The moment we make choices we feel genuinely good about, we feel an immediate resonance in our being -- a quickening in our spirit. That's God's way of saying, "Excellent choice!"

To get the energy you need to keep your resolve, make GOOD resolves (ones that your spirit recognizes as spiritually positive choices).

TIP #2: Exercise your freedom to choose consistently.

As you know, it's hard to make progress on our resolves because often our divided energies cancel themselves out. We explain our inconsistencies by saying, "Part of my mind says this, and part of my mind says that." But the question is, who's talking? The speaker, the witness, and the creator of all this -- it's one single person: Me. My mind might have a hundred parts, but here's what matters: Do I have a stable commitment, or not? Being consistent depends on consistent choosing; consistent choosing depends on stable commitment.

Popular thought says, "We make inconsistent decisions because we are in conflict." Try thinking of it the other way around: The cause of self-conflict is choosing on both sides of the fence -- making opposing choices alternately. That's the real resolve-breaker.

Consistent CHOOSING eliminates inner conflict and "causes" lasting resolves.

Human beings are free will creatures. Freedom means being free to choose thoughts and actions that support our goals -- and of course, also being free to choose thoughts and actions that conflict with them. Which will it be?

When we fail to keep our higher resolves, it is because we've exercised our God-given "freedom" to choose in a random, whimsical fashion -- one moment choosing an uplifting action that supports higher aspiration, the next moment choosing to act in a habitual, self-indulgent, or destructive manner.

Let's not rationalize capricious choices by thinking, "Freedom is when I'm choosing randomly between good and bad -- so if I'm not whimsical, I'm not free." Here's the problem: Under that definition of freedom, sticking to a resolve feels confining, even hypocritical. It makes us think that integrity and randomness are one in the same. How false that is!

This brief exchange proves the point:

"Since you're free, poke this sharp stick in your eye."

"No way!"

"Why won't you do it?"

"Because it's unintelligent."

"Do you feel diminished in your freedom because you're not choosing that self-destructive option?"

"Not in the least!"

Likewise: As an expression of free choice and spontaneous whim, a mother could walk away from her infant. But if she chooses to rear her child to maturity, is she imprisoned? Of course not! In choosing to remain committed, she's just as free as a mom who abandons her child.

What is enduring and even arduous can be an expression of pure freedom. Some monks get up every morning at exactly 5:30, and meditate for exactly two hours each time. Are they free? Of course! Just as free -- arguably more free -- than the fellow whose life is dictated by whim, and who is, therefore, enslaved to fancy.

Consistent choice is at least as free as whimsical choice. People who keep their resolves have as much freedom as everyone else -- but they exercise it less randomly. They simply resist exercising freedom in ways that go against their most basic values, or in ways that are injurious to themselves or others.

We're free to define freedom in a way that SUPPORTS consistency of choosing, instead of opposing it. Being consistent in choosing may simply be intelligent. Appropriate. Wise, even -- because staying focused and on track is the way to ACHIEVE our higher goals.

TIP #3: Accept your goodness as your starting point -- not merely as your destination.

No doubt, at different points in your life, you vowed to "fight the good fight." Maybe you embarked on a new personal growth effort, saying to yourself, "I'm going to try to be good -- here I go!" We all know what tends to happen then...

At such times, we may make some progress. But all too often, right from the start we give too much power to some imaginary "enemy within." The resulting inner struggle proves painful and exhausting: We can fight like a fiend, but can't win. That's how the resolve to be good -- indeed, spiritual striving as a whole -- starts seeming pointless.

The trouble is, to the extent that we hold negative images of self, the prospect of "becoming good" threatens our sense of integrity. Even thinking about viewing ourselves in a different and better light brings up feelings of hypocrisy! So we fight valiantly to maintain our "badness," as a matter of principle. By defending our negativity, we fashion ourselves into enemies of truth and goodness. Thereafter, when we're not giving up on being good, the best we can do is struggle to "become" good. Either choice is unappealing.

How to avoid getting beat up in the good fight. Don't labor on under limiting views of yourself. When you feel weak, don't buy it. Instead, make a different decision about who you are -- right from the beginning. After all, you are the one who gets to decide between your competing ideas about yourself.

You can fight your spiritual battles from a position of real strength ONLY by stabilizing a POSITIVE view of who you are.

Just like an oak emerges from an acorn, everything we see or experience is an outworking of our root presumption of who we are. Are we ego or spirit, good or evil? The only real possibility for change, then, depends on changing the initial premise.

We know that people don't necessarily think of themselves as one simple, single thing. But it's crucial to note that we do think of ourselves in self-limiting ways when it comes to resolves, and when it comes to trying to be the kind of person we really want to be. And we've seen how any negative or limited self-image can make life a terrible struggle. It might be a struggle against being good, or it might be a struggle to be good -- but it's a struggle either way.

Beware of the self-defeating mentality often associated with striving: "I am not that, so I must become that." The self-definition in the first clause tends to exclude the desired results! For true success, the premise has to be the true Self. And if your premise IS the true Self, you've already succeeded. You succeed the minute you sincerely accept that you are the true Self. The rest is just the outworking.

Before you TRY to be good, ACCEPT your own essential goodness -- sincerely. If you accept that you are your true Self, you're no longer "getting to good," or "becoming good" -- you ARE good. You already incorporate good, and embody good. THAT works!

Read more about how to accept your own goodness

For more about identifying with your
higher Self, read "What it Means to Be Yourself"

TIP #4: Watch out what you want.

Through all the adventures and misadventures of living, the big magic comes from you -- from what you think and believe. Whatever you say goes. No one and nothing is stopping you from succeeding --except, perhaps, you.

Without a doubt, we think what we want to think, and we believe what we want to believe. If we decide that we can master this or that challenge, we can. But if our wants conflict or change, our magic can easily work against us!

Consider these common conflicts:

"I want to be loving, but I don't want to be a martyr."

"I want to be generous, but I don't want to be exploited."

"I want to be forgiving, but not in all cases."

Psychologically, such insight may seem sophisticated and honest --and it might have cost thousands of counseling dollars to gain it. But spiritually, it's insane! To both accept and reject our goals is inner warfare. It ruins our lives, plagues our relationships, and smashes our dreams. Don't go there!

We need to stabilize what we want

The real problem we've had with keeping our resolves was simply this: We didn't want to. Maybe we wanted to at first, but hours, days, or weeks later, we didn't want to anymore.

Maybe we were attached to our old ways. Maybe we were unwilling to stretch ourselves into the new shapes required to form new habits. Maybe we were reluctant to be actually, personally accountable for maintaining the new responsibilities we'd admired from afar, and aspired to earn. And what if we simply wanted to keep doing whatever the other choice was: the bad habit, the lazy way, the old pattern we need to quit doing to be happy? Clearly, we need to make up our minds!

How beliefs are slaves to desires

It is said, "You can never get past your beliefs." That's true, but we can get past any beliefs we change.

What we think and believe comes from what we want to think and believe, which in turn comes from what we want to do or be. Generally, we favor thoughts and beliefs that support our intended actions. We certainly do change our beliefs if we want to do or be something different. It happens all the time . . .

Example: A man is out of work, but he doesn't want to get a job. So he chooses to believe that he can't get a job. According to that belief, he would be FOOLISH to look for a job. Presto! His choice to be lazy suddenly seems to be justified.

Later, however, he gets tired of being a couch potato and freeloading on his friends. Finally, he WANTS to get a job. What happens now? First, he decides it's possible to find a job after all. Then he goes out and gets one.

Who changes our mind? We do, whenever we choose to. But we can also choose stability. Ahh!

Where stable wanting comes from

As long as what we want changes from day to day, our beliefs and even our values will change accordingly. Stability of wanting comes from having true values and being true to them. Our true values --including love, compassion, non-injury, healthy self discipline, soul honesty, higher consciousness, and the like -- are eternal, constant. They are intrinsic to our basic humanity, to our self-same Self reality. Therefore, what we most deeply want, what we most aspire to have and be, is also eternal.

Though our true values and deepest desires remain stable, we may come and go in relation to them. For example, sometimes we know what's right, but we "don't feel like it." At such times, we tend to disown our true values, replace them, provisionally, with their opposites -- and then call that what we value. For instance, if we feel like ignoring a friend in need, we may choose -- temporarily -- to undervalue compassion and overvalue self-interest.

The trouble with getting out of sync with our true values is, we find ourselves doing things that have effects opposite to any effect we really want to have -- effects which move us in directions opposite to our most heartfelt goals.

Being true to our true wants

Fortunately, the solution is close at hand. Because our true values are eternal, our spiritual desires are always within us, always within reach. And since those deeper desires are fully compatible with any worthy resolve, we never have to reinvent the wheel that moves us forward.

Within the realm of whimsy, there is no constancy. Our passing fancies may distract our attention and usurp our energies, but, as we all know from personal experience, they never last. We don't even miss them when they fade. Meanwhile, our hearts always cherish our eternal values and deepest desires. It's easy, even inevitable, to be loyal to them, because no plan or decision that conflicts with our highest values can satisfy us for long.

When we become willing to be loyal to our true values, wants, and needs, we will reliably make AND keep resolves -- and thereby achieve our cherished goals.

Read more about consistent choosing: "Voices and Choices"

by David Truman

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