Promises to myself: ten philosophical resolutions

Dandelion Clock

Don’t you love the feeling when you realise that your work for the year is done and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t kick up your heels and relax? I woke up with that feeling this morning. I’m off to Vietnam at the end of the week and I can feel myself being drawn towards the plane.

Bon voyage, friends and fellow philosophers, wherever you may venture this holiday season! I’ll see you again in 2014 with more adventures of the cerebral kind.

I’ll leave you with a list of philosophical resolutions for 2014. I’ve lifted them from some of my favourite posts on this blog. I’ll be taking them with me on holiday. Promises to keep.

1. I will say ‘yes’ to life.

‘To complete Nietzsche’s three metamorphoses, the lion must become a child. ‎Maturity, for Nietzsche, means rediscovering the seriousness one had as a child at play.

A child-like spirit is vital to happiness, health, and well-being. “The child”, Nietzsche says, “is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a Sacred Yes”. The lion becomes a child when the individual who says “I will” ceases to affirm their values contrary to the law of “Thou Shalt”, and affirms them instead “for the sport of creation: the spirit now wills its own will, … its own world”. Life is no longer a reactive struggle to defeat other forces. Life is a celebration of one’s powers – a sustained act of pure affirmation. The child-like spirit knows the joy of life and the innocence of perpetual creation’.

From Nietzsche’s three metamorphoses (February 2010)

2. I will grow collective.

‘Love is a disruptive event that opens people to a new terrain of possibilities and a common vision of what they might be together. I find this aspect of Badiou’s argument tremendously interesting. When people find love, they realise life offers them more together than it does alone. They realise that they can do more together, and thereby discover a tremendous responsibility and risk. Can they be worthy of this common possibility? What level of dedication and trust is required to realise it? Love, Badiou claims, requires that we reinvent ourselves – together. It is a project of co-construction – the kind of event that we need to constantly work at in order to sustain’.

From Life changing love: Badiou and the birth of possibility (January 2013)

3. I will be present for others.

‘Authentic engagement is world-disclosing work. Implicity, by trying to enable the other, I acknowledge the value of sharing a world with them. When someone extends this kind of acknowledgement, it lights up the world for both people. Suddenly we are present with one another in a shared time and place. When I am present for you and we both acknowledge it, our deeper identities, and the things we are capable of creating together, come into focus. We become more than just anonymous individuals co-inhabiting the same space. We become fully-realised beings-in-the-world: researchers within reach of a breakthrough; atheletes aspiring to be champions; entrepreneurs looking for a better way to do business; lovers in a parting embrace’.

From Be with me: Heidegger in the age of the smartphone (December 2013)

4. I will be a giver, not a taker.

‘What do you have to offer your tribes and communities? Think about your place of work, the people who work there, and the creative projects that go on in this space. What unique contributions can you make that could empower these people and activities?

Don’t stop there. Look at the world about you. We are entering an era of global transformation and change. Everyone needs to pitch into this Potlatch. What is your gift to the future?

Don’t just be a leader. Be a chief. Identify your tribes and give’.

From 21st century giving: how Facebook’s News Feed catalysed a culture shift (September 2013)

5. I will focus on things I can control, not on things I can’t.

‘Genuine self-control is equal parts focus, drive and humility. To get it right, you need to rein in your desire to be in charge of life. You need to temper your pride with reason. You need to be master of your own house before you are in a position to conquer the world’.

From Odysseus and the Cyclops: mastery, humility, and fate (June 2013)

6. I will be a meaning maker.

‘We forget that we can be meaning makers in life. We get caught up in being this or that kind of professional identity. We define ourselves through our jobs and roles. While we can and do find meaning in professional roles, we should never forget that they don’t define our full scope of possibility. We must be prepared to disrupt ourselves every now and then in order to see the unexpected opportunities in daily events and take our lives in new directions’.

From Be a meaning maker: Sartre and existential freedom (June 2013)

7. I will convert negative emotions into creative energy

‘Anger can be a gift. If, like me, you are dealing with a head of steam, don’t bury it deep – use it. Channel it into a creative activity. You might put it into words. Instead of internalizing your anger, write a book or story that externalizes it, or a blog post at least (no prizes for guessing where this one came from). Join a band and thrash it out. Take it to the streets by joining a protest movement, but make sure that the lion’s share of the emotional capital goes into building a community and solidarity network. Creative action is the best way to expend any kind of emotional energy’.

From Hug the monster: own your anger and use it (September 2012)

8. I will question everything.

‘Learning to live in a sceptical way takes practice, but it is worth it. By learning to think sceptically, we are not only better able to identify things that have real meaning, relevance, and value in life, we are enabled to identify the things that lack meaning, relevance, and value, and thereby declutter our minds by setting these things aside, zeroing in on the things that count.

Decluttering the mind is every bit as valuable as defragging your computer. Decluttering helps you stop worrying about all the meaningless, irrelevant, and absurd thoughts that clog up your mental bandwidth. It gives you space to think. It gives you back your freedom’.

From Sceptical thinking: the five modes of Agrippa (November 2013)

9. I will celebrate abundance.

‘Everything flows and becomes, evolving, cross-pollinating, mutating, infecting and transforming adjacent flows, from the mating cycle of the hummingbird to the tidal patterns of the Pacific Ocean; from the furious wheel of the hurricane to the distintegration of mountains in glacial time. Everything is fed by the flow of radiation from the sun. Hold out your hands to the sun. Feel it vitalise the mollecular flows of your body’.

From The earth is full: scarcity and abundance thinking (July 2013)

10. I will never give up.

‘Sartre argued that authenticity involves making a fundamental choice about how to live – as a philosopher, writer, communist, whatever. The caveat is that we acknowledge that this is only a choice, and there are other choices we can make in life. Camus argued for what is ultimately, I think, a more uncompromising position: that existential authenticity demands that we admit to ourselves that our plans and projects are for the most part hopeless and in vain – and struggle on regardless. This, for Camus, is existential revolt – to affirm the absurdity of life and continue’.

‘Revolt … is a constant confrontation between man and his own obscurity … [It] is certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation which ought to accompany it’.

From Camus, absurdity, and revolt (May 2010)


  1. Hmmm… well… not exactly.
    There is much to be discussed on this one. I do admire the intentions though.

  2. I really liked this. I think its combined breadth and brevity are a lot like Nietzsche’s aphorisms–only a little less cryptic–requiring the reader to actively engage them, question, and incorporate them in their own manner. Cheers!

  3. The first philosophical resolution you listed truly deserves to be on top. Yes to life! It is something that will bring happiness to an individual who processes it. Thank you for sharing these positive thoughts. I appreciate also the number 6 resolution of being a meaning maker.

  4. A glass for some people is half full, but for others it’s half empty. There is always some balance in life. “Yes to life” is just another side of the same medal with “No to life” on it. Yes and No are inseparable somehow and they earlier or later merge.

  5. Reblogged this on Kiemkracht, wortels voor maatschappelijke innovatie and commented:
    Nice things to remember for this year and also for the restart of Kiemkracht, this fits very well!

  6. Nice Post
    I now realize that UBERMENSCHE=CHILD,like at Child at this video (4 Year Old Boy Plays Piano Better Than Any Master) Very amazing.. maybe this is that Nietzsche mean


  1. […] usually like New Year’s resolutions, but I couldn’t help but be inspired by the list over at Philosophy for Change (a blog everyone should check out). Number two on that list most resonated with me, because it […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: