A word on New Year’s Resolutions

Elisabeth Farrell, IV Leader Editor

Ah, February… the month of failed New Year’s resolutions. 

Note this is the January issue—that is, I’m writing this now so we can make it farther than 80% of people (according to Forbes) toward our annual goals. Whatever your resolution is this year—get in shape, get more money, get more sleep—it’s likely you’ve already struggled with keeping it, or perhaps have given up already. 

What’s the deal with this? Why do so many of us fail at something we try every single year? There are plenty of explanations, from procrastination to seeing no progess to just plain laziness. Maybe one of those rings true for you—but I know my issue with resolutions, and that’s the very word itself. 

It involves “resolving” to do something, and let’s just say I could benefit from trying to better myself in the commitment department. Sure, I could resolve to be more resolv-ent in my life—but can I, or anyone, really expect to accomplish something I have abysmally little interest or experience in?

The word “resolution” carries a lot of weight. It means something long-term, and often something serious. If you like those terms, a resolution might not be so daunting to you. But if you don’t, dealing with a goal can look like a very dark and dreary path.

We often suffer from barriers within our own language without realizing it. Consider the word “love,” for example. Do you love your dog the same way you love your mom the same way you love your celebrity crush? Let’s hope not, though English says otherwise. 

Besides a lack of specific vocabulary, us humans also fall victim to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: a theory, according to Study.com, that states one’s “worldview is constructed by thoughts and processes limited by one’s ability to articulate linguistically.” Basically, the language we speak and think with shapes our experiences. 

But see? When I say “victim” it sounds bad—but I could just as easily call the Sapir-Whorf weakness a strength. If language shapes thought, and I hate resolutions… well, what’s stopping me from switching the word and watching myself succeed?

I prefer “new intentions” over a “New Year’s Resolution” for a few reasons. For one, intentions are plural—so I don’t have to make one big, lofty, lengthy goal. Intentions also seem smaller in nature, or at least much less flashy than a bright neon sign saying “I am desperately trying to better myself.” Plus, if someone asks what your resolution is, there’s no need to embarrassingly admit you need to control your spending, or work out more often—you can simply answer by saying, “I’m going to practice having better intentions,” and then apply those to whichever goal you wish.

My intentions this year? To start replacing words that scare me (exams, for instance) with words that scare me somewhat less (celebrations of knowledge). Synonyms may not magically fix my life, but they do have the power to alter my perspective on something I might otherwise hate. 

Don’t worry. You can steal the idea. Or borrow it. Whichever word you prefer.