The New Year’s dance and embracing a spiritual way of living

new years clock Now that presents have been opened, gifts returned and trees dismantled, I suppose I should turn my thoughts to the new year—resolutions in particular.

Like everyone else, I have made countless promises to myself over the years to lose those last ten pounds, color-coordinate my closet, spend less than $1825 at Starbucks in a year, read more intellectual books, like Don Quixote, go to therapy, so on and so on.

Usually by February the backsliding has begun and by June I’ve settled back into my cozy routine with the resolution(s) on course to nowhere. Each failed resolution encapsulating a private disappointment of dashed hopes and dreams.

If my resolutions were intended to change something about me for the better, why were they destined to fail? I just couldn’t seem to stay focused, committed, enthusiastic, or determined.

The word “resolution” means a firm determination. It wasn’t enough that I had a sincere desire to stop drinking and using. It wasn’t enough to merely say at the stroke of midnight, “I’m done!” that sobered me up. Receiving divorce papers, losing custody of my children, or being on a 48-hour psychiatric watch didn’t do it either. “Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our power.”

Logically, getting sober and my resolutions were sensible things to do. How to accomplish these was the dilemma?

A valuable lesson I have learned in recovery is that action must follow an intention. I need to close the gap between my intentions and actions. I need to turn my attention to the process, not the outcome.

Applying the same spiritual principles to new year’s resolutions as I do to my sobriety reveals several things: first I have to be honest about my intentions: how serious am I about these things? How committed? Am I ready to make this a priority and do the work? If not, half measures will surely avail me nothing.

I also have to own it, become accountable, do the footwork and be open to a destination that may not look like the one I had envisioned. Maybe I won’t read Don Quixote, but maybe I’ll discover a book I had never heard of. Maybe I won’t run a half marathon, but discover Muay Thai. Moving forward toward my goals, enjoying the journey and having faith that my intentions, backed by action, will manifest rewards.

I might not have to rely on a power greater than myself to achieve small self-improvements, but the insight and strength I have gained from a spiritual way of living has opened up new pathways far more powerful than mere self-will when it comes to embracing change.