By Sesa Das
OK, I admit it. I’m a junkie, a New Year’s resolutions junkie. Every year I make so many resolutions, and every year I fail to keep them. I know I am not alone in this. Is there a support group out there?!
This pesky little urge to make a commitment to a project or to reforming a habit to mark the beginning of each New Year is not new and seems to be quite universal. Brooke Williams’ article, The History Behind New Year’s Resolutions, published in The Colonnade, The Official Student Newspaper of Georgia College and State University, gives this history, “…the tradition of the New Year’s resolution was created by the Babylonians 4,000 years ago. The first day of the year for this ancient civilization was March 23 and one of its popular resolutions was to return something borrowed from a friend during the previous year…The Romans celebrated the New Year on Jan. 1 and shared a similar tradition with the Babylonians. A common resolution in ancient Rome was to ask forgiveness from enemies of the past year. The Chinese New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years as well. Their New Year is somewhere between late January and early February, one of their resolution customs is housecleaning, which tops many modern-day New Year’s resolution lists. Whether or not these civilizations took their resolutions seriously and always achieved what they resolved to do is unknown. Today many resolutions are made with the best intentions, but the majority are not actually met.”
Yeah, I know all about the failures. According to a recent survey conducted by Quirkologist (one who studies the curious science of everyday lives) Richard Wiseman, as reported on www.quirkology.com, which tracked over 3000 people attempting to achieve a range of resolutions, including losing weight, visiting the gym, quitting smoking, and drinking less, “At the start of the study, 52% of participants were confident of success. One year later, only 12% actually achieved their goal.”
These statistics tell only half the story. Please understand, its not that I am just looking for help in a support group, I have years of experience that may help others. Here are a couple of things I know.
First, the reason why most people even try making resolutions is a the cyclical chain of dissatisfaction followed by the consuming desire for a fresh start in some area of their lives, and The New Year provides a great opportunity to remake ourselves. The problem is that most, why most, all, people are concerned only with an external conception of themselves, and thus their resolutions focus of superficial changes. The US government’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications reports, “The most popular resolutions in the Western world include to quit tobacco smoking, stop excessive drinking of alcohol, lose weight, and get physically fit.” Such external changes will never satisfy the real you, and keeps you locked in this repeating cycle of making and breaking resolutions.
Second, following on the first point, is something I learned in the school of hard knocks. Success is about priorities. Success will only come when you have your priorities straight.
There is an interesting lesson about priorities in the Srimad Bhagavatam. As the story goes, Lord Vishnu in disguise as Vamanadeva, a dwarf brahmana, goes to beg charity from Bali, the conqueror of the entire universe. Coming fact to face with Bali, Vamanadeva makes a strange request. He asks for only three paces of land, and that according to His footprints. Bali scuffs at this puny request and tells Vamanadeva he can offer his planets or all the wealth in the universe. Bali chides Vamanadeva, saying He doesn’t know either his (Bali’s) power, or His (Vamanadeva’s) own best interest. In reply Vamanadeva gives the following instruction that is relevant to all those who make New Year’s resolutions.
“One should be satisfied with whatever he achieves by his previous destiny, for discontent can never bring happiness. A person who is not self-controlled will not be happy even with possessing the three worlds.
Material existence causes discontent in regard to fulfilling one’s lusty desires and achieving more and more money. This is the cause for the continuation of material life, which is full of repeated birth and death. But one who is satisfied by that which is obtained by destiny is fit for liberation from this material existence.”
Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 8, Chapter 19, Texts 24-25
The lesson: understanding the nature of this material world, the nature of the real self as being spirit soul naturally different from the dissatisfactory experiences of the material world, and striving by means of internal change for lasting spiritual satisfaction, are the real priorities for everyone. Everything else will follow.
Now, obviously this is easier said than done. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be looking for a support group. Fortunately, I do have an idea where to find my support group. They gather daily at the local Hare Krishna temple for classes on Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. So this year my New Year’s resolution is going to be to attend Srimad Bhagavatam class every morning.