Webster's Dictionary defines the word as "the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc." However, ask the average person to define the word and the answer will likely harken to an enthusiastic promise followed by repeated failures and resigned dissatisfaction. That seems a little backward.
The celebration of a new year is rightly a time to examine the past, but for some, the red pen has gotten out of control. A year in review becomes difficult to see behind all the notes written in the margins.
"I need to fix..." "If I replace this with..." "What were you thinking?" "Instead of that, this year..." The list of regrets goes on and on until we define our past year not by the experiences it yielded, but by the things we will do differently the next time around.
Resolutions have become the disease, not the cure.
Ironically, as we make our New Year's resolutions, on some level we know sooner or later, that cheeseburger is going to become just too tempting to resist. When we make a resolution, are we dooming ourselves to another year's end of regret and broken promises to ourselves?
In the American vernacular, "resolution" has become synonymous with failure. Why does 45 percent of the nation make an annual commitment when only 8 percent of citizens, on average, keep it?
Simply, resolutions comfort us.
The phrase, "New Year, new you," is a mantra repeated by millions each year as the shiny ball drops in Times Square. When the sun rises on Jan. 1, it shines on people hopeful for a second chance, or a third or a 13th.
Stepping over an arbitrary line in time does not suddenly present the opportunity to become a completely new being. You will awake on Jan. 1 the same person who went to sleep on Dec. 31.
There are times when we all wish for a reset button, and the changing of the calendar brings that chance every 365 days. It's important to begin a year with hope and a mind open to change, but a fresh start does not necessitate the erasure of the past.
According to a University of Scranton study, the most popular resolutions during the new year include goals like losing weight, finding love, quitting smoking and getting organized. Each of these resolutions seems intended to eliminate a source of unhappiness.
If resolutions stem from a desire to change the things we don't like, rather than ending a battle as the word is defined, we have begun a new one against ourselves. And that is a battle we lose either way.
What if a New Year's resolution were more representative of the opportunity it represents? What if a resolution brought enjoyment rather than frustration?
If the goal is to make the new year better than the last, we should concentrate our efforts on finding the things that make us happy and repeating them.
Take a look at your 2013. Instead of regretting what you didn't do, be thankful for the things you did. Don't make a promise to say, spend more time with family because you wasted too much of it in the past. Choose to relive the enjoyment of being with people you care about.
Don't decide to lose weight because you regret the way you look in last year's pictures. Resolve to work out more because you like the way it makes you feel about yourself.
At the start of 2013, I resolved to run 10 miles by the end of the year. On Dec.1, I ran my first half marathon, a 13.1 mile endeavor. It had no profound or lasting impact on my life, but when I crossed the finish line I felt happy and accomplished.
The fact that I had completed my New Year's resolution didn't cross my mind until a day later.
I made a resolution to do something I thought I would enjoy, not fight against something I didn't, and now I have a sticker on my car window that reminds me every day what I'm capable of.
As you make resolutions, realize the problem you need to resolve is not what went wrong last year, but making sure this year is filled with the things that went right.
Emilee Lamb is a sophomore in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.