Resolute

The USA government has an official USA.gov web page for New Year’s Resolutions: “Here’s information that can help you achieve your goals in 2014”. Unfortunately, it is not a ‘how to’ guide for preparing an existential trajectory, but a way of organising the existing web-based assets for regular government services, such as seeking employment or furthering one’s education. It synchronises the governance of one’s self with the governance of a population.

The wikipedia entry for New Year’s Resolutions is more about being less of a horrible person by way of setting goals, “a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day”. Glance at the etymology of ‘resolution’ and you see that it is not so much about setting goals, however.

late 14c., “a breaking into parts,” from Old French resolution (14c.) or directly from Latin resolutionem (nominative resolutio) “process of reducing things into simpler forms,” from past participle stem of resolvere “loosen” (see resolve). Sense of “a solving” (as of mathematical problems) first recorded 1540s, as is that of “power of holding firmly” (cf. resolute). Sense of “decision or expression of a meeting” is from c.1600. New Year’s resolutions in reference to a specific intention to better oneself is at least from 1780s, and through 19c. generally of a pious nature.

Hence the shared history with the word ‘solution’ and ‘solve’. The meaning of the word evolved to have a critical approach to problem solving, evident in the etymology of the word ‘resolute’:

The notion is of “breaking (something) into parts” as the way to arrive at the truth of it and thus make the final determination (cf. resolution). Related: Resolutely; resoluteness.

This is to think two scales of problems: the New Year’s Resolution scale of problem that may very well take an entire year to ‘solve’ and the smaller scale of problem arrived at once the larger problem is broken down into its constitute parts. Being able to isolate such problems and move between different scales of a singular problem is a critical thinking skill.

Why don’t people who make New Year’s Resolution set the goal of being more resolute — not only in the partially sense of “holding firm” but also in the sense of “breaking something into its constitute parts”?