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Make Goals Instead of Resolutions

goals and resolutions shaolin wahnam twin cities speed limit sign
Full steam ahead doesn't always work with the energy of the season

In Shaolin culture, there is no such thing as New Year’s resolutions. Since our arts aren’t static, and we’re always striving to improve, there are of course aims and objectives, but no resolutions as they are typically touted during this time of year. Indeed, I’ve largely given up the practice of making New Year’s resolutions in favor of taking time to write out my goals for the year. Jokingly, last year I set a resolution to clean one shelf a week in my refrigerator until it was clean. Guess how many I got to? It was somewhere around 50%. While the statistics vary, it seems that on average, most people have given up their resolutions after about four months. In fact, yesterday I stopped by a local gym to drop off flyers for my upcoming Qigong For Stress and Anxiety course and noted not without some amusement that there was only one person there working out. Perhaps you’ve experienced the same thing. Why is that?


I take the inspiration for this post from my dear acupuncturist friend in Grand Marais, MN who recently posted his thoughts on the topic on one of his social media accounts. Having an understanding on the nature of the Water element, as well as Yin and Yang and seasonal change helps us better understand the inertia at this time of year which frequently derails our best laid resolutions.


We’ve just passed the winter solstice, which represents the time of utmost Yin in the year. Yin is quiet, quiescent, and still-like the dormant plants and trees sleeping in the ground. The movement of the current Water element dominant season is downward, and invites us to rest and be still. This energy runs completely counter to the up and out growth nature of the Wood element which starts to emerge in late winter and early spring, bringing with it movement and motivating energy. While water does generate wood, spring follows winter, and even now at the height of the Water element season there are the faintest beginnings of wood energy, that wood energy is still very weak, and needs to grow before it can come into its fullness.

frozen berries on a branch
The fruit of the season to come takes its energy from the dormant roots sleeping below


We are living beings that are part of the universe and also subject to its energy. Resolutions and lifestyle changes need the push of wood energy to have their best chance of being successful. Of course, some of us actually manage to stick to the changes we implement at the beginning of the year and if that’s you, then I applaud you and say carry on.


But if you’re most other people, I invite you to use this time to be kind to yourself. Use the time of quiet thought to put pen to paper and write down what you want to get out of the year and what your strategy might look like. Let yourself implement those changes in a way that is actually sustainable and allows you to build a habit. Then, when you get to the end of the year again, you can celebrate your wins rather than feeling pressure to make a bunch of changes come next January 1st. Didn’t meet a goal on your list? Fine. Carry it over into the following year and refine it into a way that works for you or perhaps let it go if it’s not going to serve you.


Come join me for my first live-streaming class of the year to get a gentle start on your goals. You don’t even have to get out of your pajamas-although you will have to have pants on. Then work on building the energy that will sustain you, and your goals, all year-round.

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