To Do or To Be? Making Resolutions

It’s still August, but the weather has shifted and my American friends are getting ready for back-to-school season and the internet seems full of new planners, backpacks, and freshly sharpened pencils. Autumn, more than winter for me, is a time to start thinking about resolutions for a new year.

Most of us make resolutions, but we often frame them in terms of what we want to accomplish or produce, rather than the type of person those resolutions are making us to be.

We resolve to lose 10 pounds or get a degree or eat more spinach. We plan to make partner at the firm or earn 100k or buy a new vacation home. We try to take 100 photos in 100 days or learn to ski or master making perfect pasta.

But why? Why do we want to do so much? Are we not content with just being?

The truth is, being and doing are interconnected in our lives. We can’t just throw away the need to do things altogether.

But what if our “to do” list was accompanied by a “to be” list? What if our resolutions situated our accomplishments in light of the kind of person we want to be?

It’s hard to resolve to be a different kind of person, because that’s too vague: we can’t just resolve to “be more hospitable”, for example, without realizing that becoming the kind of person who is hospitable involves actual acts of hospitality. So a resolution that’s going to be achievable can’t not include activity.

But our reason for the activity deserves real consideration. Why do we want to make partner at the firm? Is it because we think that will make us more significant? Is our self-worth invested in our ability to master the perfect pasta dish?

Or are our resolutions set within a larger context of the kind of person we want to be? Do we want to earn 100k so our family can have a home? Or because we think 100k represents our value? Do we want to learn to ski because it offers us a chance to experience a new element of creation? Or because we think skiing demonstrates our self-worth through physical prowess?

Do we recognize that becoming that person we want to be might entail different kinds of resolutions? Providing our family with a home might mean cutting back on spending; experiencing the outdoors more might just mean a regular walk in the woods.

There aren’t hard and fast rules: it’s personal.

But let’s start by thinking about being: who do we want to be? What kind of a person do we want to become? And then think about what we can start doing to become that person.