The Clean Slate — Resolve, Not Resolution

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“May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions…”

–     Joey Adams (1911 – 1999), American comedian and columnist for the New York Post

Ahh, the calendar turns and we face the proverbial “clean slate.”  (Technically, we do that every single day, but what a buzz-kill that would be for the first business day of the new year!)

Later today, when I hit the gym, (for the 50th day of the last 72, thank you very much!) it will be packed.  Of the couple hundred new people there to execute on their “resolutions,” 80% will be gone within five months.   One third won’t be there by the end of January.  The wait for the 30 pound dumbbells will be five minutes today.  It will be zero by February 10th.  We’ll see parts of the parking lot never before imagined for the next couple weeks, and then park close enough to the door that I can auto-start my car before I put my shoes on by Valentine’s Day.

Why is that?

Because resolve and resolution are two different concepts.

Dictionary.com tells us that resolve is to “deal with conclusively. To settle; solve…”  Resolution is “a formal expression of intention.”

If we dig through the definitions, we could make the argument that they’re closer cousins than I’ve just described, and from a nit-picky, English, root-of-the-word perspective they are.  Gym attendance proves the point.  The continuing rise of obesity in our culture even though 42% of us make New Year’s resolutions and most of those are to “lose weight,” give us the filter we need.

Intentions are great, and they can set us on a course.  Resolve keeps us on course.

The old saying, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is too flippant for my taste.  I had a boss once who constantly asked me to assess whether so-and-so had bad intentions.  I couldn’t honestly answer that question, but I can tell you that the person’s resolve and behaviors made it clear that they (metaphorically) weren’t gonna be on the elliptical or the squat rack tomorrow.

We have to have good intentions, and I bet 99% of us do.

But without the resolve to see things through, our outcomes will be just another resolution — a membership card in our wallet that never gets scanned as our never-gets-skinnier butt drags it around with us.

Replace the gym with the office, and the concept still holds.

Yes, it’s the first work day of a new year.  Fresh intentions will give us hope and energy.  Resolve, commitment and focus will give us the outcomes we’re seeking.


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