A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping
BY MARTY BELLFor many years I made New Year’s resolutions that had excellent intentions, but these resolutions usually set me up for failure, as I think most resolutions do. Oh, I kept my resolutions for some time. Sometimes I actually carried them throughout the year, but they seemed more of a limitation of life rather than an expansion of it. But why do we so often fail in our New Year’s resolutions, or if we succeed in keeping them, why do they seem so burdensome? I think it’s because we add unrealistic demands to our already too hectic schedules and we end up producing more anxiety in our attempts to end our anxiety.
The Zen tradition of Buddhism teaches that true freedom is being without anxiety about imperfection. That’s one of the more difficult aspects of life for many of us, including me. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, we are taught from our earliest memories to try harder, to push the limits, and to do our best. There are times when those messages are appropriate. But for many of us, we took the messages too seriously, which made us too serious as people.
Relaxing into life, learning to let go, for most of us, that’s the best thing we could do for ourselves and for others in this New Year. When we come to realize the paradox that imperfection is perfection and that life is fundamentally the way life should be, we begin to make changes in a more organic and less frenzied way that leads to greater changes for the good in the long run.
I resolve this year to not resolve to do things that create more anxiety about my imperfections. With the grace of God, I realize that I am enough, and being enough I make real changes that bless me and others.
Marty Bell, Ph.D., is a professor, preacher and singer/songwriter. He teaches at Belmont University and ministers to three Methodist churches in rural Williamson County: Green’s Chapel, Garrison and Greenbrier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.