Every time right around the New Year, we start talking about resolutions. These are all the changes and improvements that we want to make in our lives that we didn’t get around to making the previous year. But I have a problem with resolutions, or at least the way that many of us use the term, because it connotes a condition that we’re hopeful for receiving rather than something we are committed to creating. Resolutions typically don’t work because we view them as fleeting – they lack substance. What we need are not resolutions, but goals, a vision, and a plan. There’s a big difference between approaching a goal as something that you should accomplish versus something that you must accomplish. Resolution implies should, whereas goal implies must. Resolution is a whim, whereas goal is strategic and implies commitment. We must pay attention to the language that we use because failing to use the right words can actually prevent us from achieving the outcome that we want before we even start.
One of the keys to a successful life is depth. We need to commit ourselves to a cause, a vision, a plan and work at it every day. You do not become expert in something by dabbling in it. Expertise is developed through commitment and consistent practice of your craft. Resolutions are not deep because they inherently focus not on a strategy, but on a wish. They are a quick fix in a world that needs long-term strategies not short-term solutions. In many ways, we have become accustomed to always look for the quick answer to the problem that is more a palliative than a wholesome solution. But when we don’t approach problems with depth and only treat the surface, then we achieve a cosmetic burnishing, but not a profound resolution. We want permanence, not evanescence.
Creating depth in life is where richness and texture are found. You learn not only a lot about yourself, but about the people or the subject that you commit yourself to. Whether it is a discipline in school, a career, or a relationship, all of these areas can benefit dearly from depth. Just to be clear, let me focus on what depth is. I view depth as focus, intention, and commitment. In education, for example, depth is reading a book and trying to understand the author’s position, the language she’s using and how that book fits into the greater context of the field, and even more broadly, the world. You don’t just read the words on the page for the sake of reading words; you view them as a lens through which you gain a greater understanding of the world and your place in it. Depth is determined by focus because it’s the way you approach the subject that you’re interacting with; it’s intention because it’s dependent on what you want to get out of your interaction; and it’s commitment because in order to go deep, you need to commit to a topic and get to its core to learn about its essence and not merely how it appears artificially on the outside. In relationships for example, depth requires presence – of heart, mind, body, and spirit. This does not mean deep relationships can only be those that you’ve been involved in for a long time; it means that you must bring your soul to the person that you are communicating with and connect not just with their mind, but also their heart.
I advocate taking the deeper path to your life’s desires. If you want to improve something in your life, commit to mastering it. If you want to have better relationships, treat people with care and sensitivity and listen to every word that they say. First understand, then be understood. When was the last time you just listened to someone intently without trying to communicate your own agenda. When was the last time you just graced someone with your presence and attention and really listened to what they were saying and tried to receive not just their words, but their spirit or soul? This is depth, and when we employ it, we come to greater terms with ourselves, others, and the richness of the world and forces of nature. Richness is nuance.
There is so much inherent power, beauty, and complexity in nuance. There is a true art to “reading in between the lines” and this paradigm can be applied to numerous situations in life, not merely to the written word. I recently read a book by Daniel Pink called A Whole New Mind, and the premise is that right-brain thinking – thinking that is governed by creativity, artistry, and empathy – is becoming the prevailing mode of problem-solving in business, education, and leadership. He introduces a concept called “white space” that he learned about in a drawing class. White space is essentially space that does not appear to be part of the picture, but actually frames an important component of the picture and adds to its cohesion. Essentially what he’s talking about when he refers to “white space” is nuance. If you only focus on the charcoal drawing and fail to concentrate on the space around the drawing, you might miss out on an important part of the artwork that the charcoal is unable to depict or delineate.
In anything that we do, let’s commit to focusing on the depth of the situation – the nuance or “white space” – and learn how embracing the long term and subtlety of life will leave us all feeling more fulfilled. We will achieve a greater sense of accomplishment through depth than if we are merely to look to resolutions to bring us to the profound points in our lives at which we really desire to arrive. We must resolve to go deeper in our resolutions and apply greater focus, intent, and commitment to turn them into the goal and favorable achievements that we all really want when we subscribe to formulating New Year’s resolutions in the first place.