How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Work

A gorgeous cathedral, a footprint on the moon, a powerful electric automobile, a pocket device with tremendous computing power, a best-selling novel that changes the way we see humanity—these achievements did not begin with shovels and wheelbarrows, rockets on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, engineers assembling circuitry or the outline of a book.

No, they began with an idea in the mind of one person.

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That idea, it could be said, was a special idea that had the power to create extraordinary things. Ideas with the power to stir interest in others and galvanize those others into action individually and in groups, to forward that idea into a future as yet unformed. In Scientology we call this special kind of idea a “postulate.”

A postulate is not just a wish. To wish is, by definition: “To long for, desire.” We’ve all had those longings and desires; there’s nothing wrong with them, but they have little power. A wish is flimsy, flabby, there’s no intention behind it. “I want to write a book someday,” for example. But the wish dies away or stays there as an idea only and “someday” never comes. Other ideas and activities shoulder the wish aside. A postulate, by comparison, is defined as: “a self-created truth.”

So what’s the difference between a special thought, a “self-created truth” that makes things happen, and a wish that doesn’t? And more to the point, why all the jokes about the futility of making resolutions?

In this rather cynical and apathetic age, we are instructed that extraordinary ideas of the past were not unique, but traded on the work of others and found fertile ground because of some economic or social phenomena. People who create great things are not special, the cynic says, they were just lucky. Things just happen and that’s all there is to it.

But those special ideas are what create the future. Something as simple as putting an appointment on a calendar helps create the future, as postulates are not just for global phenomena, they are how individuals build a life. A college degree did not begin by standing on stage in cap and gown accepting a diploma, it began with a postulate to obtain a higher education. All the logistics—college visits, applications, interviews, registration, study, tests—occurred because of that postulate in one individual. Perhaps the postulate was a parent’s. But if the student did not agree or take on that postulate then nothing would have happened or perhaps it would have resulted in a disappointing term or semester and then a dropout.

Some people enlist the help of a Higher Power to assist them in achieving their goals, and many have had success this way.

At the beginning of each year many people make “New Year’s resolutions.” What could be more useful than a plan, an idea, a set of goals, for the year ahead? A postulate to create a year as yet unwritten? And yet the cynics will rise and trumpet the “futility of resolutions, the randomness of life and the inability of anyone to create anything.” Don't listen. Listen instead to the voices of those who would improve their lives and the lives of their friends and families, as they are the ones with a foot in the future.

One note here, make the postulate “in the now.” The postulate is a “now” type of thing, with a compelling immediacy to it, not some idea for “tomorrow” or “next year.” For example: “I do not drink alcohol and I help others to quit,” not “I will stop drinking.”
“I have a promotion,” not “I will get a promotion.” “I have a special person with whom to share my life,” not “I will join a dating site and will find someone I like.”

Some people enlist the help of a Higher Power to assist them in achieving their goals, and many have had success this way. The 12-step programs to overcome addiction like that of Alcoholics Anonymous have had many successes. Wishes do not create the future, postulates do. But what about prayers?

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“I am a Buddhist in my daily practice,” said the Dalai Lama recently. “I have a daily practice of prayer but I do not believe prayer brings a peaceful world. We can keep praying for a thousand years and nothing will happen. We should be realistic. If you have the opportunity to meet the Buddha or Jesus Christ, ask them to bring peace to this world and they will certainly ask you, who creates violence? If god created violence, then yes, it’s relevant to appeal to god. I am certain that Buddha and Jesus Christ would tell us, you have created the problem, so it’s your responsibility to solve it.’”

With postulates and intention, the future can be your playground, a blank canvas on which to create.

I have to agree. Postulates require personal responsibility and intention—the root of which means to “stretch toward something.” A postulate stretches out and crosses the gulf between thought and action, a wish does not. While many people wish, hope and think about writing a book, for example, a postulate causes things. The postulate-maker drags himself out of bed at 6 a.m., sits down at the keyboard and begins tapping away—and keeps at it morning after morning until the book is done. He may fall short many times, but considers that part of the process and reboots and gets back at it.

The “wisher and hoper” might get inspired and sit down a few times, but then runs into some little obstacle—he keeps getting distracted checking email, begins making coffee first, then eating breakfast, then it’s time for other work, and so he slips back into life as usual. Or he stays up late watching a movie and decides it’s unrealistic to get up at 6 a.m. That’s not an “I wrote a book” postulate, it’s an “I write as long as it is fun and easy” postulate or a “wish and maybe I will” postulate or a “watch movies and sleep in” postulate. But a true postulate will carry you through the obstacles. It has INTENTION behind it that is bigger than—and overcomes—all the obstacles. It is a decision you make and then put into action regardless of whatever else pops up to distract, dissuade or discourage you.

Postulates are how you create your future. You can coast along and leave it uncreated, you can “go with the flow,” or slump into some reality created by others, but that is a sort of apathy. With postulates and intention, the future can be your playground, a blank canvas on which to create.

“The future isn’t a pattern laid out to abuse and bully you,” said Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard in a series of lectures titled The Rehabilitation of the Human Spirit. “You talk about virgin territory—the most virgin territory there is, is the future. You can do anything you want with it.”

But taking responsibility for the future means you’re going to encounter obstacles that have stopped many people before you. It takes postulates to punch through those obstacles to a done deal.

As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

So when you hear all the negativity about failure to achieve New Year’s resolutions, realize that those pessimists have failed and given up and now find delight in seeing others also fail­ (it makes it OK that they themselves have failed—see?). “Nobody can keep those New Years’ resolutions, so why even try?”

But put a postulate behind those New Year’s resolutions. Cross over the gulf between thought and action and you will have the magic of creation at your command. If it was easy, everyone would have done it. Sometime in April wishers and hopers will shake their heads and say to themselves “Well, to think I could do that (quit smoking, lose weight, go back to college, write a book, etc.) just wasn't realistic.”

But you, with your postulates and the intention behind them, will step up to a new and higher level of life.

As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Wayne Hanson
I'm a writer and Dianetics counselor who lives in Sacramento, Calif. I have a wonderful life, a creative career, a loving family, and I would not trade places with anyone. I do have a dog who poops on the rug.