Walk more, scroll less, read more, smoke less. When arranged in a certain order, our New Year’s resolutions can have a surprisingly Seuss-ian cadence. Dr. Seuss injected equal parts playfulness and poignancy to many of his books, and the best resolutions have both. Yet, most resolutions lean heavy on the gravity and light on the levity. There is a leaden quality to many of our resolutions born of a rigid moralism that rarely leads to the flourishing we actually desire. So this year, rather than burdening yourself with the chains of a resolution rooted in harsh self-criticism, I invite you to join me in committing to something that will nourish your soul.
For many years, I rejected the practice of making resolutions at all. They seemed to serve as just another tributary to the great river of shame that irrigates our interior lives. Our consumer culture feeds on shame. Advertisers and tastemakers fuel our insecurities, promising to quell the cerebral critic who whispers that there is something deeply unacceptable about us. We are taught that we can overcome our problems through the purchase of new gadgets, self-enhancing services and escapist experiences.
As a spiritual leader and guide, I have had the privilege of hearing from countless people about their deepest wounds, and the wound of shame is chief among their struggles. New Year’s resolutions seem to be part of the shame-industrial complex. According to research reported by The Guardian, most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January. We are stuck in a cycle of self-doubt, false solutions that depend on inhuman quantities of sheer willpower and further shame when we fail to white-knuckle our way to perfection.
Yet, despite my skepticism regarding the practice of the New Year’s resolution, I have re-adopted it because I believe flourishing requires making deliberate choices. We need to cast joyful visions for the lives we want to lead, rather than accepting ourselves as fated to spend our future in the same patterns we have had in the past.
The first step is digging past the superficial goals of most resolutions to the deeper soil in which we come back to our true selves. Instead of resolutions, perhaps we might make re-soul-utions, if you will pardon my cringey wordplay in the spirit of not taking it all so seriously. Eating differently so that we conform more closely to beauty norms, have more energy or even live longer are surface-level goals. Eating differently so that we can get in touch with the plant and animal kingdoms that become part of us in every meal, so that we better care for the temples of our bodies that perform daily miracles or so that we can play more energetically with the loved ones who turn the cacophony of existence into a symphony of meaning — these are soul-nourishing goals.
So this year may our goals be higher, deeper and wider, and may we hold them more lightly than we ever imagined possible.
Read more of the Jan. 11-17, 2023 issue.