Already Messed Up with Your New Year Resolution? Part One (R12+)

So it’s already business as usual… That New Year Resolution has already bitten the dust.

The thing is that one part of you desperately wanted to make a change of some kind but, perhaps unknown to that part, another part is even now quite content being slap-happy, lazy, grumpy, bad-tempered, procrastinating—correction: other parts of your being, left to themselves,  are very content to continue to be slap-happy, lazy, grumpy, bad-tempered, procrastinating.

Let’s call these parts ‘I’s, for they are simply individual characters in the life-long play that works itself out on the stage of your mind…

There’s an ‘I’ that wants to make a change—call it Wanting-to-make-a-change-I.  Wanting-to-make-a-change-I summons up, for instance, Always-finishing-a-project-on-time-I—that’s the embodiment of your resolution, as an example.

But this well-meaning ‘I’ has not taken steps to circumvent Content-being-slap-happy-I,  or Happy-being-lazy-I, or Practising-to-be-a-grumpy-old-person-I, or Bad-tempered-I, or Being-an-ace-procrastinator-I or any of the thousands of ‘I’s that get in the way of Deciding-to-make-a-change-I.

So what has to happen?

It all comes from the understanding that the ‘I’ that decides to make a resolution is not the same ‘I’ that actually makes one is not the same ‘I’ that puts it into operation is not the same ‘I’ that checks progress is not the same ‘I’ that keeps practising.

It’s systemic:-


In NLP lingo, it’s extended Parts Work.

There’s a well-developed exercise that takes people round this circuit and helps to resolve any resolution at any stage of the year from an empty abstraction into concrete reality.

It’s the basis of my coaching practice.


Below, Patrick Lowery brilliantly outlines the background to this…

13 thoughts on “Already Messed Up with Your New Year Resolution? Part One (R12+)

  1. Gurdjieff introduced the idea of multiple I’s to the West along with the ideas that man is a machine, has no will, and is incapable of Doing anything consciously. We are all subject to serve our unconscious, and the millions of already mechanically created I’s, or something like that? This can make one feel either liberated or in fear that the whole life thing is bonkers and basically hopeless, as it does feel at times when we are in the grips of some pesky buggered-up I’s. The thing about resolutions is that they suggest we have a choice about how we are going to change something, and that means we can Do, but this contradicts what Gurdjieff says, unless we experiment with the idea of multiple I’s. It’s a very simple process of observing oneself in different situations and environments, with all sorts of people and places. Once we have observed enough of these mental pictures and have witnessed just how automatically we respond to each external event, we are then ready to have some fun with trying out some new things. Playing roles is one way to Stop the flow of mechanical I’s, that is we can pretend we are left handed if we are right handed. Try this for a full day and then see and feel the full force of our mechanical I’s. We can’t Do it! Play the role of a priest or a teacher you knew growing up, step into his or her shoes and watch the behaviors follow, but we just can’t Do it. Even if we remember to do these strange exercises, we will fail miserably at it. We can’t remember ourselves! If we try and take control and change ourselves we will eventually go mad because we have no will! So, it helps to begin with something simple like not breaking a habit, but creating a new habit. This is where the body becomes an integral part of the process. Until we can learn to sit in silence and sense our whole being, the other stuff will drive us nuts. Once we discover how empty we are, we can then begin to move around Colin’s map of I’s. The body is the key to this inner change we are talking about. Most of the time our attention is up in the head not Doing anything, it’s just up there rolling around from “I” to “I” preforming a play no one wants to see or be part of. Rarely is our true intellectual center open at all. And without sounding too magical here, it’s our bodies that open up the space for going Meta, or beyond our small minds. This connects us to the subtle vibrations already inside and out, and from there we can go and do whatever we wish. The force that resists us is the same force that allows us to keep a promise, it’s a paradox, but the paradox falls away into something else when the two forces are reconciled. It’s not a control thing at all, it’s a flow thing. As soon as I try and control life it becomes old and tired, this has only taken me 60yrs. to realize! and I still fall into that trap at least once a day, although my wife may think differently about that!


  2. Thanks both – Patricks description of “rolling around from “I” to “I”” reminded me of a bagetelle machine – he sounds quite the pin ball wizard.

    Fabulous for me to see someone else bringing things back to the body – thank you Patrick.
    Even though I take that as read from Colin, since his is a moving exercise in practice. Not to be imagined, but walked and felt.

    “The body is the key to this inner change we are talking about” absolutely 100% agree with this statement. For hundreds of reasons I won’t bore anyone with.
    Moving meditation (where a person may begin moving in a way that allows them to experience stillness) can be as stilling to the mind as bodily stillness. Moving meditation on a theme, (centre+focus) regularly produces generative results that are much more rarely achieved by attempts to use conscious cognition of the mind alone, which of course we can’t anyway – but you get my drift?

    The importance of adopting both/and thinking vs either/or thinking springs to mind as being a useful starting point as does the importance of acceptance. From within the stillness of mind opening the brain’s ability to fully engage both hemisphere’s and most importantly the far ranging right, so that insight and henceforth an automatically changed future experience (of a similar contextual content) occurs.

    The purpose of the exercise is exploration not resolution, attachment to resolution means starting from and aiming toward a fixed point which will almost certainly have been consciously decided and which, by definition, will lead us astray; since we (as in multiple “I”)are, by and large, other than conscious it seems.

    We become changed rather than we attempt to change ourselves? The change experienced in that context, may indeed ricochet around between “I”s; different parts of us and thus affect the whole of us.

    In my opinion.

    Thanks for both your nudges.


  3. What a timely post, Colin! Just last week, at my weekly Wednesday evening meditation session, the first meeting of the new year, our teacher began by suggesting that we let go of any resolutions we had made (and, to your point, were probably already failing to keep!) and instead consider our presence at meditation for the next hour as our resolution. I really appreciated how, with that simple invitation, she was pointing us away from “doing” a resolution and toward “being” a resolution. A point implicit, I think, not only in your coaching methodology of moving the individual around his/her circle of “I’s”, but also in Patrick’s recommendation that we practice sitting in silence and sensing our whole being, and Pat’s description of moving meditation as a generative process.

    My own new year’s resolution, by the way, is around two related aspects of being – one of not being so attached to certain personal aspirations that have often “run me” in the past, the other of being open to the not-knowing what it will be like if I actually do let go of those aspirations. Too early by far to assess how I’m doing with these, but I’ve certainly been helped by the thoughts each of the three of you have shared here. Thanks to you all!



    1. Hi Tom

      Good luck with it all – something else that also came to mind whilst reading your post are the practices of Tai Chi, Qi Gong and/or Aikido(?) where one moves in the direction of the flow of energy, to catch an opponent off balance rather than trying to block the energy in a confrontational manner and meet the combined force of resistance head on.

      I like your phrase of “being open to the not-knowing”.


      Bon voyage!


  4. Thanks Tom, Pat, & Colin for all your fruitful thoughts. I made a mistake in my comments, it was Colin who came up with and developed a creative way to use our I’s in a myriad of productive ways, it wasn’t Gurdjieff ; he brought the idea that man has no permanent “i” to the West, and Colin took it from there! I could elaborate on this but I’ll STOP 🙂


  5. In the spirit of Pat’s The purpose of the exercise is exploration not resolution… I’ve now called this ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ will be up in a minute. Thought I’d explore my own dodgy New [All} Year Resolution by using my template! Tom’s Being a Resolution seems to me to fit beautifully with a Multiple-I exploration…


  6. Reading all of this discussion about engaging the body to enact any meaningful change brings to mind the practice, for some habit, of going on a walk. I imagine I’m not alone here in having found that walking can often have an almost magical effect on myself and others and on the interplay between my self and those others with me. Patrick’s point about the body being what allows true intellect to open up (is that an intellect that has some balance between “mind” “body” and “spirit” or thought/feeling/physicality?) chimes with my experiences of walking. The mind is often cleared, thought flowing more freely but also more clearly, but more than that a kind of sense of timing/rhythm seems to emerge in oneself and between oneself and others that always seems to harmonise the group, bringing those there closer together by opening them out to each other (perhaps this could be related to what Patrick refers to as feeling those finer vibrations when the intellect is opened up). An opening seems to take place that dissolves a lot of the barriers we usually encounter between ourselves and others. Barriers that exist inside ourselves perhaps, inside each of us, that combine into some semi-unfathomable complex (the large part of which can only ever be predominantly opaque to us by virtue of its existence within the beings of others and not just ourselves?). Interestingly I usually find that the harder the walk, or the longer, the more this effect can be witnessed. A walk in the hills and mountains, where each person is taken both outside of themselves into the world and also into their bodies onto the world by the challenge of the land, the need to be aware of each footfall on rock and grass, and of the routes through the terrain that look most viable up ahead, always seems to make the group more in tune amongst itself. Does anyone else experience this, and does anyone see any connections between this and the discussions above about real intellect emerging from the body?


    1. At least one person…:-

      A species of thick clothing slowly grows about the mind, the pores are choked, little habits become a part of existence, and by degrees the mind is enclosed in a husk. When this began to form I felt eager to escape from it, to throw off the heavy clothing, to drink deeply once more at the fresh foundations of life. An inspiration, a long deep breath of the pure air of thought, could alone give
      health to the heart.

      There is a hill to which I used to resort at such periods. The labour of walking three miles to it, all the while gradually ascending, seemed to clear my blood of the heaviness accumulated at home. On a warm summer day the slow continued rise required continual effort, which carried away the
      sense of oppression. The familiar everyday scene was soon out of sight; I came to other trees, meadows, and fields; I began to breathe a new air and to have a fresher aspiration. I restrained my soul till reached the sward of the hill; psyche, the soul that longed to be loose. I would write psyche always instead of soul to avoid meanings which have become attached to the word soul, but it is awkward to do so. Clumsy indeed are all words
      the moment the wooden stage of commonplace life is left. I restrained psyche, my soul, till I reached and put my foot on the grass at the beginning of the green hill itself. Moving up the
      sweet short turf, at every step my heart seemed to obtain a wider horizon of feeling; with every inhalation of rich pure air, a deeper desire. The very light of the sun was whiter and more brilliant here. By the time I had reached the summit I had entirely forgotten the petty circumstances and the annoyances of existence. I felt myself, myself.

      Richard Jefferies: The Story of My Heart


    2. And another – from an other than blog perspective – My husband has just lost his walking- buddy of more than 25 years; we went to his funeral yesterday. Chris’s piece reflects exactly what Geoff experienced on his walks with Steve. Thank you for your reflections. I loved especially these two sections,

      “The mind is often cleared, thought flowing more freely but also more clearly, but more than that a kind of sense of timing/rhythm seems to emerge in oneself and between oneself and others that always seems to harmonise the group, bringing those there closer together by opening them out to each other”

      “A walk in the hills and mountains, where each person is taken both outside of themselves into the world and also into their bodies onto the world by the challenge of the land”,

      they are things that Geoff has often spoken about particularly about falling into rhythm with the other person or group and being opened to the other person through that shared experience.

      Someimes their walks would last for days and sometimes weeks, sometimes they talked and said things to each other that they probably never said to anyone else and sometimes they equally enjoyed being silent together and just absorbing nature.

      They are the things he will miss the most.

      Thank you Chris – suffice it to say you are not alone.


    3. I forgot to say thank you for reminding me of the value of simplicity and yes there is an undoubted connection between whatyou said and the precding comments. For me your words were if you like the embodiment of the concepts we were talking about.

      Walking in this way can be a moving meditation, although not named that, and produces a stillness within through the ryhthms experienced.

      Enjoy your walking


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