We all struggle with keeping our resolutions. Learn the secret to becoming more committed to your resolutions.
So once we know the problem, we know the solution. The secret to resolutions is getting more in touch with our inner desire so that we can keep to what our inner desire is and not let our outer will, our outer desires, take over.
My daughter just suggested to me that I speak about keeping resolutions on my next podcast, so I am taking on your suggestion, dear daughter, and I address and dedicate this podcast to you. And we are going to take a deep dive into keeping resolutions. And it’s this time of year that so many people are taking on resolutions so it’s a very opportune time to discuss this.
Now, my dear daughter, you already know that we all have an internal struggle that follows us through our entire life. And it exists at almost every single moment of our life. In the context of resolutions, this inner struggle is the struggle between our inner will versus our outer will. Or, another way of saying this would be, the struggle between our idealistic will versus our indulgent will. Another way of putting this is the difference between our self‑oriented will versus our selfless‑oriented will or our short‑term desire versus our long‑term desire.
Because our inner will is the very same as our idealistic will and our selfless will and our long‑term desire and our outer will is the very same as our indulgent will, our self‑oriented will, our short‑term desire.
And the conflict that we have with keeping resolutions is the conflict that we have between what we want deep within us, within our deepest inherent purest indulgent self versus what our immediate bodily desire is. So once we know the problem, we know the solution.
The secret to resolutions is, getting more in touch with our inner desire so that we can keep to what our inner desire is and not let our outer will, our outer desires, take over.
A very simple example. It’s the great diet conflict. We all want to feel physically well, we want to be physically healthy, we want to wake up every day, feel vibrant, energized and healthy. And yet, when the cupcake or the donut or whatever it is that is our desire is sitting before us, we sacrifice all of those inner desires for immediate pleasure.
Why do we want to be physically well? Why do we want to feel vibrant and energized? So we can live our optimal life and dedicate our full selves to the purpose we are living. But when that desirable thing is before us, it overtakes and overwhelms our inner desire, which is the reason why people seem to find the strength to overcome that immediate pleasure and desire a few months before a wedding. Because they can see the wedding before them. They can see the suit or the dress they want to fit into. And that is so concrete and real that they can control this desire, this outer desire they have in order to meet their inner desire.
But on an average given day, our outer will, our indulgent will, our self‑oriented will, our short‑term desire is much more concrete and real and tangible before us and so it overwhelms the secondary hidden inner desire. And, therefore, we do not keep to our resolution.
Here is an example I have, which is really a blessing I’ve been blessed with very recently. At the age I’m at, for whatever reason, when I eat sugar or unhealthy foods at night, I usually wake up in the morning with a headache. And so in the evening before I’m about to bite into something I should not be eating, I remind myself of the feeling of that headache, of how I feel the next day, because I felt it so many times that I can actually make it very real. And when I make that very real, it awakens my inner desire not to eat this food and to overcome my outer desire and I’m empowered to do so and I don’t eat it.
I don’t ‑‑ I’m not always successful, but if I spend enough time thinking about the inner desire to be healthy and vibrant the next day, to get through a day where I can be very productive in fulfilling my purpose, then I will overcome that desire.
This is the reason why I have a certain sensitivity to children, because I’ve had experiences myself where I may have been hurt or slighted by an adult when I was a child and some of those experiences have remained with me. And so sometimes when I see a child who is either hurt or can be hurt if I don’t react to the child in a certain way, I think to myself that this child may carry a pain with them for the rest of their life. And when I connect with the inner will of doing the right thing versus the more convenient will of just ignoring the child ‑‑ and the way I do that, connect with the inner will, is by thinking about how this can impact this child’s life ‑‑ that motivates me to show tremendous sensitivity.
And this is really what we call in Hebrew and what the Alter Rebbe, Rebbe Schneur Zalman, our great master and mystic, writes in the book of Tanya is hisbonenus, contemplation. When we contemplate, when we train ourselves to pause and to think before we speak and do, to think about what my idealistic soul wants versus what my indulgent self wants; is this thing that I want coming from my indulgent stuff or my idealistic soul? And if it’s coming from my indulgent self, well, then, let me plug into, before I interact with this desire, let me plug into what my inner will is, what my inner self wants. And if I can really get in touch with that and feel it the way I can feel the headaches I’m going to have the next day, then my inner will is empowered to overcome my outer will.
Now, sometimes it’s easy for us to identify with our inner will and what that looks like. So if we take ‑‑ if we can pause and take a few moments to think about that, to contemplate that, that empowers us and we remain committed to our resolution. But sometimes our inner will is something which is not very concrete, which we don’t fully connect to or understand. It’s part of our subconscious and our soul really craves that but we’re not so in touch with that depth of our soul. And so then we just need to remind ourselves that every single time we control our outer desire, we are becoming a stronger person.
As our Sages teach us, ayze hu gibor, who is mighty, kakovesh es yitzro, one who conquers his desires. When we conquer our desires, we are demonstrating true strength, true mite. And that actually is the definition of true character, one who can overcome their outer will and fulfill their inner will. So while I may not be in touch with this particular inner will and, therefore, I’m not motivated by my inner will, but I remind myself that every time I control my outer desires, I am actually developing a muscle. And that is the muscle of exercising my inner will by being a stronger person, by developing true character.
And now you might understand why I named the website Beginning Within because living more aligned with our inner desire and our inner will is really one of the fundamental keys to life. And this is the gift of your schooling, because every single time you study Chassidic philosophy at your young age, you become more familiar with your inner will. Because you’re learning about it, it becomes more concrete to you and it will be available for you when you are in conflict, which we always are throughout our life. And it will be easier for you to pause, contemplate, say, I know this will give me immediate pleasure, I know that it will serve my outer will, I know that it will be a great moment of indulgence and I know that this is not a long‑term strategy because it will hurt me long‑term. And when you think about that and remind yourself that this is going to hurt what you truly want for yourself, then you will have the strength to remain committed to your resolutions.
We all have to control our short‑term self‑oriented desires. That is the key.
So good luck with your resolutions and know that we all struggle with our resolutions and also know that it is within you to remain committed to them.