On the first of January each year, it is safe to say that billions of people make New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you are one of these individuals who long to take control of their destiny: to be more kind, less lazy, better disciplined, or to not be as selfish and self-centered.
But I would assert that every year, even as the total number of people who make these resolutions increases, there is also a steady decline in the number of people who hold out any real hope in their own powers to further perfect themselves. And it isn’t that their spirit isn’t willing — only that they have slipped down the steep path before them too many times.
And so it is that we gradually reach that place in our lives where we recognize that simply coming up with more wishes is a waste. If we are to change, something else is needed.
Let’s be honest about what is possible and what is not: Change does not take place tomorrow. We do not lose weight, develop our art, or mysteriously become more kind or conscientious an hour from now. Either we change ourselves in the moment, or not at all.
If we would do better, we must know better, beginning with the following Higher Knowledge that one must have before it’s possible to make any resolutions with any reliability: It is our attention that produces and empowers change in us.
For example, if our attention is given over to angry emotions, then soon this same attention is swimming in a dark sea of negative thoughts that serve only to justify the growing waves of rage within us. The inevitable outcome of this kind of captured attention is an outburst or attack upon someone. We manifest the misery we make through unconscious attention.
So, if we make some resolve that we won’t get angry anymore, or that we will help others instead of hurting them, this much should be clear: Until we learn what it means to be in conscious command of our attention, our disappointments and heartaches must continue.
The reason why we do not change, or otherwise make real our resolve to rise above who we have been, is that we are always forgetting ourselves. We go to sleep spiritually. We doze in dreams of better times to come — of some happier self to be — at the expense of being awake to what is our one real need: To be New Now.
Whenever we can be awake to ourselves and remember our right intention, the rest of the work is done for us. Our intention to be mindful, patient, honest, disciplined, whatever our higher wish may be, places our attention, unmistakably, upon our new aim. And it is this same intention, the upward direction of it, that reveals those dark forces at work within us set against our wish and that seek to drag us down.
Of course our work to be conscious, to have real intention, and pay true attention is difficult! But compare this path to unconsciously being run through endless unintended changes. Suddenly the practice of this special interior work becomes equivalent to a walk in a sun-filled park.
Keep your intention simple to start. For example, make it your intention to be patient with others who displease you; or intend to say, “Yes!” to life whenever negativity in you wants to cry out, “No!” No matter what intention you make, keep it before you — alive and present — at all times. And know this next fact to be both sure and kind: We will fail (often!) at keeping our newly intended wish — but this kind of “failure” will change our very essence, something our worldly successes have not been able to do!
Find out! Remember yourself and your wish for Real Life. Work at keeping your spiritual intention before you — whatever roads you may walk — and watch how God watches over you, seeing to it that you grow in all that is Good.