Resolution versus Decision

I have been learning more about the difference between a resolution—wanting something to be the case—and decision—actually willing the action and doing it.

I used to lie in bed in the morning and resolve to eat rationally that day. Five minutes later I would walk into the kitchen and begin eating a piece of leftover cake from the party the night before, all the while thinking to myself, “I don’t want to eat this.” The disconnection between my “wanting” and my “actions” used to distress and puzzle me, especially around my overeating.

Things started to change last summer. A friend had succeeded on an eating program and invited me to consider it. I received all the handouts about it and saw that it contained several rules that I knew would be problematic, such as no eating after 6:00 p.m. I spent a month working up to a commitment to stick to the program. I worked through each component of it by envisioning myself actually doing it. I discharged on my fears of losing weight and making mistakes, feelings of hopelessness and discouragement, and my resistance to rules. When I started the program, I had moved from resolving to get control of my eating to actually having decided to do it.

My husband and I had planned to go with friends on a summer vacation that would place us around lots of food. I spent a month discharging my feelings of being “trapped.” I would be around all that tempting food, and I couldn’t figure out on what basis I would say no to it. I was feeling like a helpless victim of the situation, while forming powerless resolutions. Part of me wanted to overeat ice cream and other desserts, since the vacation would be the perfect excuse to indulge. I realized that as much as I was struggling to “resolve” to stick to my eating plan, in my head I had already decided to eat everything I wanted.

But I also didn’t want to gain weight and didn’t want to give up being in charge. I finally realized that the way forward was to give up my “resolutions,” “hopings,” and “wantings.” Instead of “resolving” to eat well, “hoping” I would be able to handle the restimulation, or “really wanting” not to gain weight, what I needed was an actual decision. And a big part of that would be developing the skill to detect when I felt like I had made a decision but part of me actually had not. I needed to get all of me behind the decision, not just the “should” part of my brain.

I had to think through every situation I would find difficult to manage, and I finally found an idea I could hang on to. I knew I would be offered expensive food, such as smoked fish, as well as cheap food, such as pancakes—all at the same fixed cost. I decided to skip all the cheap food and instead eat mainly the expensive food. I pictured myself going happily through the buffet line, picking out the smoked salmon and skipping the pancakes and not feeling that I “wanted” something else. (My motivation probably had something to do with having been raised poor.)

Once I was able to see myself actually doing what I had decided, I knew I would be all right. I needed to get all of me headed in the same direction—my wants, my desires, my will, and my actions.

In looking back over the years, I see that my resolutions never involved any actual decision. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Now I am better at catching myself when I announce to myself that I should do “x.” Such self-pronouncements I realize are not something I’ve agreed to; in fact, part of me is already rebelling and deciding to do something else.

I have learned that a decision has to go very deep for me—I need to get all of me on board and in agreement with it. I need to be able to envision doing the right thing and refraining from doing something else—otherwise it’s not really a decision.

Judy Kay

Tacoma, Washington, USA

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00