Don’t Make Resolutions. Be your own “vinedresser”.

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Bottom line up front:  Collectively, generally:  we have too much “stuff!”  We have too much mental stuff, too much social stuff, too much emotional stuff, and too much material stuff.  In my mind’s eye, I cue George Carlin’s classic stand-up comedy routine on “stuff”.   

A resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something.  Resolutions tend to add more stuff to your to-do list.    

According to a recent survey, approximately 25.98% of adult Americans do not have personal goals set for 2021.  The remaining 74.02% are determined to learn something new, make a lifestyle change, or set a personal goal in one or more of six categories:  health, self-improvement, money, family, love, or career.  Unfortunately, when the respondents were asked what their excuse will be for failed 2021 New Year’s resolutions, some of the most common answers were lack of will power, forgetting, laziness, and COVID 19. states the following about resolution makers New Year’s resolution success and failure rates:

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  • After 1 week, 75% are successful
  • After 2 weeks, 71% are successful
  • After 1 month, 64% are successful
  • After 6 months, 46% are successful

For those individuals that do not make resolutions, but do set similar goals, only 4% are successful after 6 months.  Sadly, according to a 2016 study, only 9% of individuals that make resolutions feel they are successful at meeting their stated goals.  Bummer.

What if we made a change?  What if we looked at the beginning of each year, or any time that we wish to make a fundamental change in our life, as if we were preparing for a harvest or being a vinedresser?  A vinedresser is person who tends or cultivates vines, especially grapevines.  Vinedressing is a year-round job. 

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Vinedressers prune.  To make room for new growth, they must remove dead, diseased, or undernourished fruits from the vine.  If we are our own vinedressers, the grapes or fruits are our goals and objectives.  Typically, pruning must be started soon after planting.  We can take notice of what we own or is on our current to-do list and remove what we do not need and adjust our social, emotional, and material assets in away that allows us to use our resources wisely.  Just like pruning fruit makes room for new growth and more effective use of oxygen, light, and soil nutrients, pruning our schedules and “stuff” gives us “room to breathe” and quality time to invest in our prioritized goals.  We can strengthen our connections with family, more freely hone our talents, and more comfortably demand time for our spiritual well-being.  However, sometimes we must prune after a lot of overgrowth, which is not easy but is necessary to reap the rewards of personal and professional talents or to attain prioritized goals, whether the goals be social, emotional, physical, spiritual, familial, or material.  Pruning removes harmful relationships that drain energy.  Pruning allows us to re-purpose and re-assign tasks that do not benefit us or the people we love but may benefit others and allow them to grow and use their gifts wisely.

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Vinedressers manage pests.  Know what people, places and things affect our resolve and focus.  Just like the agricultural specialist protects vines, the literal lifelines for the fruit, from animals and weeds, we need to manage distractions that have a high probability of mitigating our success.  Social media, nay-sayers, procrastination, comparison, unrealistic expectations…they all create hurdles to success, and we all deal with them to some extent.  Because people matter and reaching goals should not equate to or promote the marginalization of human relationships, we need to thoughtfully create appropriate emotional, physical, material, spiritual, and social boundaries.  This is not a call to marginalize others:  what is a weed in one garden is a beautiful, soil cleansing flower on a different plot of land.  Everyone and everything have their proper times and places…but we cannot forget to exercise grace!

Vinedressers monitor and provide nourishment.  We must “irrigate”.  The vinedresser provides water to keep the vines healthy.  The developing crop can ward off pests and withstand the heat of the sun…elements in the environment that lead to a paltry harvest.  After identifying our goals, we can engage in activities that strengthen our resolve, keep us energized for the journey, and allow downtime to enjoy progress.  Educate ourselves about the benefits of our goals.  Pray and meditate.  Avoid saying “yes” to everything…especially out of an obligation to overtask ourselves as a substitute for exhibiting success or feeling successful.  Connect with “accountability partners” that support our visions of our harvests and want us to succeed.

Vinedressers harvest.  A vinedresser knows the harvest will come and understands the labor is not in vain.  The vinedresser is intentional, even on the days the work is mundane.  Vinedressing tasks begin to take place simultaneously after initial pruning and as the crop grows.  Tending to goals is similar; reaching for prioritized goals and objectives takes consistency and may seem mundane at times.  However, the “reach” must be intentional and appropriate for the desired result.  For instance, intentionally:

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  1. Have confidence in ourselves to learn to do, to do, and to pay for good advice or professional assistance when necessary.
  2. Create a realistic schedule and measurable, specific milestones.
  3. Appreciate (i.e., sow and sow in to) our talents, interests, objectives, and goals.  Comparison is a pest.  Your “fruit” and “harvest” are uniquely yours.  The same applies to me.
  4. Share our harvests, whether they consist of knowledge, wisdom, or material possessions. 

Resolutions are not wrong, they simply are not enough to effect desired change for a vast majority of people, according to the statistics.  They are decisions without a definitive plan of action that includes evaluation, removal, and mitigation of ALL the factors that are obstacles to success.  Resolutions are decisions that do not necessarily consider developing subject matter expert allies, setting definitive, measurable milestones, and accounting for self-care during mundane tasks…even when the resolution is about self-care.  Resolutions are about the decision, not the journey…not future harvests.   So, instead of making a resolution, take the perspective of a vinedresser.  Plant. Prune.  Manage pests.  Monitor and nourish.  Enjoy and share your harvest.

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Happy New Year!