My gym has been amazingly full the past few days. Has yours? Don't worry, it won't last. There's a weekly version of this, too. Every Monday, the place is hopping. By Wednesday, it's just the old regulars.
In the opening days and weeks of a new year, we often allocate special energy to setting new goals. But then, a month or two later, it's back to normal, all too often. Why do so many of our New Year's Resolutions fade away?
Too many of us think we have new goals when we just have new fantasies. A fantasy is a figment of the imagination. I have a fantasy of lying in a hammock in Key West, perpetually. But it's not a real desire, not something that, when I actually think it through, I would want at all.
A desire is something stronger than a fantasy. Philosophers call it an inclination of the appetites, broadly speaking. It has some level of inner urgency to it. We feel a pull or a push toward anything that we actually desire. It isn't just an idle dream.
A goal is something very different. A real goal is a commitment of the will. The problem with many New Year's Resolutions is that they're fantasies, or desires, but not real goals. There's no commitment. And that's why they fade so quickly.
A commitment is a firm decision that has the quality of inner resilience. It can't easily be defeated. It's a motivated choice with renewable energy behind it, because of the values it embodies and that are therefore at stake. A commitment rides the wave of those values. And they are what will carry it on.
So if you've set new goals in the new year, and feel yourself wavering, ask whether you merely have a fantasy, or a desire, or have a real commitment, a choice based on values that you hold near and dear. Fantasies and desires can generate goals, guided by values, and they can support our goals, if we use them well. But they can't replace real goals.
Remember the importance of commitment. And I'll see you in the gym for a long time to come.