Resolutions for change are very popular around New Year or birthdays when people get motivated to start off on a clean slate in an effort to better their lives. Whether it is to do a daily 20 minute work-out session or the promise to follow the motto, ‘early to bed, early to rise’, most people take the opportunity of a new calendar to change.
The very purpose of our existence is not far from this as well. We are given a new human birth, to start off fresh and live a life of dharma (righteousness). Perhaps our general drive for change and wanting to become better stems from an innate tendency of the soul, which is ‘perfectness’.
The greatest obstacle to us keeping resolutions is the mind. At every opportunity, it attempts to defeat us. A Harvard Business Review writer, Prof. Clayton Christensen, talks from his own experience (in the Feb 2011 US edition of Reader’s Digest) that it is “easier to hold values a 100% of the time, rather than 98% of the time”. For instance, if I make a resolution to spend dedicated time with family every day, the first time I break this promise is all that it takes for the mind to start growing weaker. No matter the circumstance, falling for the “just this one time” excuse will be the beginning of the last chapter in our efforts to lead a life of righteousness, says Prof. Christensen. In the article, he quotes a time when he was in crossroads to either play in a national semifinal college basketball game or keep up a vow he had made to himself (when he was 16) that he wouldn’t play basketball on Sundays due to the conflict with his church hours. He says that if he had broken his promise ‘just that one time’, his life would have been very different. Today, he leads a life of contentment, humility, and happiness simply owed to developing a strong mind.
For following dharma, we may start off with resolutions, but one can never be ambitious to be righteous. Naturally one will gravitate to such levels. To hold values 100% of the time will lead us to such a state where, for example, we’ll no longer ‘think’ about allocating time for the kids, but will naturally do it. To go a step further, no one can be ambitious to follow dharma, be loving, have bhakti, be humble, be charitable, etc. These will flower over time gradually as we strengthen our minds.
Let us pray that we do that by holding values and promises 100% of the time. Let us not fall for the ‘just this once’ excuse, for we must know such thoughts arise to merely test our resolve. Ultimately, we will not only sustain our resolutions longer, but will also be able to achieve the very purpose of our existence.
In all our past janmas (births) we have fallen in our quest. For just this one time, let us act differently.
Sriram Ramanujam, Houston, TX