Sunday, 2 January 2011

Resolution v Commitment: 'What's the Difference' Anyway?

My copy of the New Oxford Dictionary ("A landmark in the description of English" it proclaims) was one of the first things I bought when I moved to England; it came with a Thesaurus and a volume of Quotations. It was a great deal from The Times, which I used to read manically every Sunday in my "bloom where you're planted" attempt to fit in and speak the language.

I never manage to find a place to put said OED and its four million words on my work table (note to Self: do some filing and carry cups and glasses to kitchen, untangle all the electronic as gadget cables as a further delaying tactic.). Usually I just go to when I need to look up a word.

But, this once, just now and in honour of the New Year, I did.

Rewind (whirring sounds here) to one o'clock in the morning on the second of January. Last night. I woke and discovered that NPR's Prairie Home Companion was over and I'd missed 85% of it yet again (it comes on here from 11-1am so I am hard-pressed to stay awake for it; as a result, I record it with iTuneRadio on my iTouch and listen later).

Because this is what the mind does when it awakes to silence and darkness, I continued my self-directed guilty tirade that I hadn't done any resolving for the New Year. In fact, here it was officially the 2nd of January in GMT-land and I was still getting Facebook notices about my fellow writers busily making resolutions, even when they proclaimed a distaste and an aversion for them--and sometimes marvelled how they didn't work anyway.

My mind and ego steeled themselves. I was not going to succumb to the angst of the potential guilt at not having written a list of resolutions in a blog, even as it occurred to me that I actually had written some in a wild attempt to win a fellow writer's contest. Well, I consoled myself, it was one of the requirements of the competition and I was compelled to comply if I wanted a chance at winning the prize.

Part of me railed against my own logic. Was it just another excuse, like having the 'fat free' cookie(s) fully aware that they still have 100 calories each? Or the 'sugar free' cookies which still have 100 calories and taste good because of the fat and additives? [I'm good at that self-deception stuff].

"Well, never mind," I exclaimed, "you are committed to a course of action for 2011. You know what it is. You don't need to make a list of resolutions that might only encourage you, subconsciously, to fail yet again." And so on.

So there I was, awake yet unresolved. What to do, what to do? I happened to be listening to an NPR station, WNPR, which next aired a programme I'd never heard before--"Says You!"--and so I listened to that for a while, thinking I'd go back to sleep.

First up was a game called "What's The Difference". Panelists were challenged to explain the difference between pairs or words: generosity vs altruism; statue vs sculpture; recital vs concern. And so on. Sometimes it was easy and, sometimes, it was more difficult than I imagined.

What, then, I wondered, is the difference between resolution and commitment? Am I only fooling myself with my 'commitments'? Are they just like the calories I can so easily ignore?

Ahhh, the OED will know. I listened to the show, added it to my 'listen list' to record from afar and decided to research the show and the terms in the morning. And here I am. Excited, this is a rare chance to actually heft the thing out of its ball-footed, glass-fronted carved Victorian oak bookcase home (an eBay steal four years ago and my favourite piece of furniture in the world ever since). I had a plan. I would open it, first to the Rs and then to the Cs. Then I'll know. Maybe.

"RESOLUTION > Noun. (1) a firm decision to do or not to do something: she kept her resolution not to see Anne any more ¦ a New Year's resolution."

"COMMITMENT > (1) the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity: the company's commitment to quality ¦ I could not fault my players for commitment."

Of course, in a tome that large, there are other definitions for each--but these are the first definitions listed so they'll do for my purposes.

My conclusion? I have actually done both this year with regard to my writing. I have made a firm decision to move forward with writing goals I've held for a long time (complete two novels and several other smaller pieces I've begun) AND I have completely dedicated myself to that activity with a series of completed or planned actions (leaving paid employment with my husband's support; networking with other writers; taking a writing course; JanNoWriMo to follow NaNoWriMo success, etc).

This was a good exercise for me. It may explain why I've not completed other long-term goals. I think I'll look at the rest of the non-list of unresolved items in my mind (and Outlook Task List) and see whether I have both of the elements I need to make them realities.

Happy New Year. May all your resolutions find commitment--and success--in 2011.

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