There's nothing like the New Year to get people thinking about one word: resolution. We vow to exercise more, to lose weight. We pledge to spend more time with family or to get involved in the community.
When I was growing up, my resolutions included things like "Be nicer to my sister" or "Learn how to do a flip on the trampoline." They were simple objectives, usually - things I might have achieved even if they hadn't been on my list.
As time went on, my resolutions shifted to more spiritually oriented goals. One year, my list contained only one item: "Be more loving." Over the next 365 days, I prayed daily to express love more freely. To let God as Love animate my every thought and action.
I grew a lot that year, but I still hit the end of it feeling vaguely dissatisfied. And my dissatisfaction confused me. Hadn't my resolution been God-inspired and God-impelled? Hadn't I benefited from the endeavor?
As the New Year approaches once again, I have yet another opportunity to consider why - even when I've followed through on my resolutions - I've often felt less than 100 percent satisfied with my efforts. And as I pondered the "why," I was struck by the answer to my question.
I've been going about this resolution thing all wrong.
I was stunned when I realized that I'd always approached my resolutions from the premise of incompleteness - that I needed to be more loving or more generous or more patient because I exhibited a distinct lack of love or generosity or patience, among other qualities. My desire to improve - though heartfelt - stemmed from accepting that my very existence was the result of some cosmic mistake. I was an unfinished symphony, a story without an ending. My resolutions were all about adding to an incomplete me in hopes of reaching a point where I could finally be satisfied with who I was.
Mary Baker Eddy stoutly refuted these mistaken notions about identity when she declared, "Man is God's reflection, needing no cultivation, but ever beautiful and complete" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 527). What she was claiming for each of us is our spiritual perfection - our completeness - based on the idea that each one of us is the reflection of God. Since God is infinite and includes every good quality, then these qualities must be innate in His children.
But then what about "needing no cultivation"? Does that make resolutions obsolete? No, I realized. There was something I could resolve to do: I could vow to reject that I was merely a work in progress.
Rather than focusing on obtaining a quality we think we lack, we can become so familiar with our real, spiritual identity that what feels missing simply sharpens into view. Nothing else but that needs to happen since good qualities are already a part of the beautiful, complete individual that God created. We can each assert with conviction that one impatient gesture doesn't mean we lack patience, nor does one unloving thought mean we are inherently unloving. We are complete.
The Psalmist echoed these sentiments: "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14). I am - that's present tense - fearfully and wonderfully made. And so is each one of us. There's no "will be" or "might be"; instead, it's an acknowledgment of present perfection, of completeness here and now.
This makes goal-setting a whole lot easier. Recognizing that we are "beautiful and complete" inspires us to turn away from a mistaken concept of ourselves. This frees us from trying to perfect an imperfect selfhood; instead we're starting from the standpoint that each of us is immortal - perfect this very instant.
A hundred years of adding more qualities to a flawed personality won't get us where we want to go. But one glimpse of ourselves as the reflection of God shows us we have everything we need. It's a matter of recognition. And we can resolve to see this perfection - for ourselves, and for others. That's resolutionmaking that ensures progress.