Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
What are your thoughts on the value of New Year’s resolutions? On the one hand, people seem to mostly use their ”resolutions” as an excuse to annihilate themselves on New Year’s eve and not feel guilty about it. On the other hand, doesn’t it seem as if a person is more likely to be able to push themselves to make a difficult change because of the mass peer support going on around them?
From Fatima Can
Yes, and Yes… both are true. Resolutions, like ultimatums, are not entirely useless. They are a means of clarifying one’s intent (see intent essay) and intent is necessary to drive us forward. One of my favorite old fables illustrates the point.
Once there was a poor man who had fallen on hard times and had nothing left but one lamb. A famous teacher and spiritual leader unexpectedly arrived at his door for Shabbat- the Friday meal and worship. It was a custom to share Shabbat with friends and be gracious to travelers and visitors, so he killed his last lamb to feed the guests. The next day he fled to the woods in despair and asked of the heavens, “God, I am a good man, why must I suffer and my family suffer?” Although he had been a proud and stubborn man, for the first time in his life he asked for help and guidance. Suddenly he heard a cry and upon jumping up, he found a man who’d fallen from his horse. He took the man back to his house and cared for him until he was well. As the story goes, the man turned out to quite rich. He rewarded the poor man handsomely for saving his life, and all ended well. The moral, as I was told, was that god has infinite gifts but one must first ask.
What few people notice today about this and other stories like it is that there are two parts to it. Popular culture only focuses on one of them. This story can be seen as a version of “the Secret,” the popular law of attraction which states that the universe is full of love and will bend to your needs if you ask it. This of course is simplistic crap and has no more value than a new year’s resolution in and of itself. But the poor man in the story goes a few steps further. He clarified his intent and needs, yes, and asked for help. But he didn’t just sit back and wait for the universe to give it to him. When someone else needed help, he took responsibility, became the role model, and affirmed others. When you act in such a positive manner, you not only increase the chances of your intent to be fulfilled, but you also change yourself and the others you meet along the way. Success is never a guarantee. It’s not even necessarily the best thing for you in the end. The skills, your experiences and the path you take will change you; and the journey itself might be the reward.
In Wicca, they say that whatever you do will come back to you tenfold. It’s not just a matter of “ask and you will receive.”
Resolution and intent without the work is like a journey without steps- it will only leave you standing where you already are. So don’t just resolve… move! Do something based on intent. And don’t forget to keep your eyes open to opportunity. Try to understand what does happen when you take your path. It might just surprise you.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché