“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”


Our new Weekly Series explores improving your life through character growth and a new habit of practicing virtues. To read about why we are exploring virtue, click here.

Practicing The Good Life With Ben Franklin
Virtue #4 – Resolution

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution? At some point, all of us have finished out a year and decided we wanted to make some changes. Maybe we decide to add a positive habit into our lives – like exercising more, starting a new business, spending more time with friends, or becoming more patient in our relationships.

We might also resolve to cut out something that is not serving us well – like too much junk food, binge watching tv shows, or being overly critical. We all make our resolutions with the best of intentions. It’s easy to make resolutions, but how many of us have kept one of our resolutions in full, for all 365 days of that new year?

Resolution is the firm determination to accomplish what you set out to do. Ben Franklin included resolution as his fourth virtue, because attaining it would ensure he would work through his other nine to completion. As we have seen throughout history, countless people set out with the best intentions, only to fail because their resolution was faulty. Someone can have an amazing idea, a goal in mind, a new path for their life, but lacking resolve to see it through makes all their ideas a waste of time. That’s why it’s so important to practice the virtue of resolution by writing your resolution contract.

Becoming a more resolute person will require you to dig deeper and find the will to overcome the obstacles in your path towards achieving your goals. Nobody can do that for you. But here are few suggestions to help you create a resolution contract that may help as you strive to build up more resolve in your life:

  1. Pre-Decide Your Actions – Resolve how you will act when faced with a challenge. Take a moment and write down what you will, and will not, do in the face of obstacles towards your goals. This will help you stay resolved without using extra mental energy in deciding on a course of action.

  2. Write/Review Your Goals Everyday – Take some time each day to write and review the goals you’ve made. Remember why you want to accomplish the thing you listed, why it’s important to you, and what it will mean for your future if you do. By writing down your goals every day, you focus yourself on the task you wish to accomplish. Knowing exactly what you want to accomplish will keep you motivated to maintain your resolve even when times get hard.

  3. Be Willing to Change Your Approach – Often we lose our resolve because we don’t have immediate success. But often times failure doesn’t come because the task is impossible, but because the wrong strategy is being used. If you see something in your life isn’t working, be willing to change it up. You must be flexible to succeed.

  4. Find Accountability – Find people in your life who can hold you accountable to the goals you’ve made for yourself. Tell them a short summary of why you want to stay resolved and see your goal through. Community can look different for everyone, but as long as you have someone checking in with you from time to time, you’re less likely to give up when you have people rooting for you to succeed.

A Note From Dr. Andy

I just wanted to add a note that illustrated the power of getting really clear on your core values – and then having daily practices that affirm your values, connects your daily objectives with your values, and setting goals that are clearly guided by your core values.  Using your core values as a focal point is a remarkably effective way to increase productivity, resourcefulness, resilience, meaning, purpose, and yes – even resolve!

 In Kelly McGonigal’s outstanding book – The Upside of Stress – there is a section that discusses a well known study where college students were asked to write about their values and connect them to their daily activities.  I don’t have the space to include all of the material that was covered in this section – but here is an idea of some of the findings they discovered that are relevant to this message.

 “Stanford psychologists Geoffrey Cohen and David Sherman analyzed over 15 years worth of studies on this mindset intervention and concluded that the power of writing about values is in how it transforms how you think about stressful experiences and your ability to cope with them. When people are connected to their values, they are more likely to believe that they can improve their situation through effort and the support of others. That makes them more likely to take positive action and less likely to use avoidant coping strategies like procrastination or denial.”

 This is absolutely consistent with what I have experienced in my work with clients who have gone through the values exercises – and it is without a doubt the most effective intervention I have ever used (personally and professionally) to strengthen resolve.  The implications of strengthening your resolve are really significant – and potentially game changing – in that so much of of our success in life hinges on our ability to focus, follow through, and persist – which are ultimately ways to describe the virtue of resolve.  Good luck this week in putting this virtue into practice!

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