No More New Year’s Resolutions!

Snow heart. The snow landed in a tree branch in the shape of a heart

Consider this: Over 60% of all the resolutions made in the first month of the New Year are dropped by the end of January. The airwaves and print media have been filled this last week with lots of interviews, articles, and ideas about New Year’s resolutions. (This week there’s nothing which makes the point above!) Many folks make resolutions and it may be reflecting general dissatisfactions or a strong yearning for the sense of newness that comes with desired change.

We are a culture of change; of expecting change, demanding change and yet resisting change – of trying to make changes and giving up on making changes. We are also a culture that struggles with loving and kind acceptance of ourselves and others as a first step toward change and growth. (I’m not talking about compliance or passivity here, of seeing or knowing something and turning away from it.) I’m talking about turning toward oneself and another with love and acceptance and seeing truthfully what is there. Then, if you are sincere about attending to something in yourself and your life, I recommend dropping resolutions as a first step. I suggest something very different in their place.


I first heard about WQs many years ago as a way to tickle curiosity and creativity in problem solving. I’ve applied them as a catalyst for guidance in daily life. The power of WQs partly comes from the shift that happens in the brain when criticism, judgment, and blame (left hemisphere action) which are the source of most resolutions, are dropped and we move to curiosity and wonder about what we might do (right hemisphere action). Here’s how it can work.

When we turn toward something within ourselves that is causing us distress or gets a less than desirable reaction from others, we can make a shift. Rather than criticizing and blaming ourselves or another and then “resolving” to change (which from all reports doesn’t have a great track record for working over the long term) we can turn toward what is there, look at it with (at least some willingness for) kindness, and get curious, “I wonder what I can do about making a change here?”

Asking this kind of question gets the creative juices flowing and triggers the idea “generator” inside us. It helps a lot when we move our bodies and consciously breathe as we consider our question. It might take some time so be patient. We need to be willing to listen to ourselves and be aware of what shows up in our world that might give us some ideas.

An example of how floating a daily question can work.

This morning when I woke, I noticed some agitation in my bodymind. I did my early morning routine of simple movement, meditation and spiritual reading and dropped in the question, “What do I most need to attend to today to experience ease and peace of mind through my day?” I already felt more ease and calm inside.

An hour later while fixing my cup of tea, I opened my packet of YOGI tea and on the little tab at the end of the string was this reminder, “I am beautiful. I am bountiful. I am blissful.” Now I haven’t had this brand of tea in a few weeks, and I don’t know exactly why I chose it this morning, but there was the best reminder I could get for ease and peace of mind for my day.

This practice applies to many situations. When my parents were still with us and in care facilities, it was often difficult to visit and face that this was not the way they wanted to have their last years of life be. We had all hoped that they could be independent and on their own, but Alzheimer’s and dementia are cruel conditions that required skilled around-the-clock care. I made it my practice to ask myself a wonder question prior to each visit that supported caring for my parents as they needed. Here are some of them:

  • How can I be the most loving, kind, and open heart today?
  • What do I most need to attend to when facing this difficult situation?
  • What can I do that will bring peace of mind and ease to my parents’ lives today?

Invariably, something unexpected would happen like a visit from one of the staff’s dog that brightened my parent’s mood, or the gift of being able to play a game with them that we could enjoy.

Parker Palmer, a wise teacher, activist, and philosopher says this about what he calls Life-Giving Questions:

“We look with uncertainty to the year ahead. But if we wrap our lives around life-giving questions — and live our way into their answers a bit more every day — the better world we want and need is more likely to come into being.”

His whole article is well worth the time and he offers 5 questions for your consideration. I’ve adopted them for myself. Here’s the link.

I wish for you health and love and well-being in abundance through this year. May all your questions be life giving and may all your wondering be joyfully creative.

About the author

Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne Kilkus is a Soto Zen meditation practitioner and teacher and has practiced as a therapist and counselor for over three decades. She is dedicated to assisting people in expanding their capacity for giving and receiving love, and for recognizing and expressing their basic goodness in everyday life. Her path to live with wholehearted compassion and care is an invitation to everyone. She is a teacher with Open Door Zen Community in Madison, WI.