By Sam Jolman | January 6, 2012

photo-1416888183170-a2d302d2dd9a-2“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Mary Oliver

“Every entity persists in its state of being – at rest or moving uniformly straight forward – except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.”  Newton First Law of Mechanics

I was tempted to call this the most uninspiring advice on resolutions ever blog.  But I wanted to leave a little room for the possibility that you might get something out of it.  Actually, it may be the most earthy blog I’ve tried to write.  Consider it a gritty pep talk from a coach on the sidelines of your life, now a week and change into the year of your new Resolutions.

I think resolutions are great.  A new year is a fine occasion to set yourself on a path, a new goal, a new dream.  But your birthday or anniversary could work just fine too.  Or next Monday at 3 pm when you get your credit card bill and the blood drains from your face – that will be perfect also.  Which is to say, I think resolutions are truly born only when we have a moment of clarity about our lives or a moment of inspiration about the world.

This could be a good moment, like reading a great novel and deciding you want to write more or leaving a movie and wanting to change the world.  Troubling moments bring us inspiration as well, like getting winded going up a flight of stairs and realizing you need to quit smoking.  Or waking up the morning after a terrible fight with your spouse and deciding you want counseling.  Put simply, resolutions must begin in a moment our hearts are engaged.  They must begin with desire, with passion.

And then they must continue with something else – a little something called suffering.

What Resolutions Really Require

When you set yourself to wanting one thing, your life is going to have to make room for it.  Your life is going to have to change.  You will have to give up something else.  I know that’s terribly simple and obvious.  But the change, the suffering is the thing I underestimate most often in goal setting.

Our lives have momentum and they will most easily continue in a certain direction.  Its Newton’s first law: Objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.  So whenever you make a heart felt decision in your life, you can change its course.  But it will require physical, mental, emotional, moral exertion. Suffering. The force to get you there must come from you in the process. God rarely does all the work for us.

The Greatest Threat to Success

And suffering often feels opposed to desire.  That’s why I bring it up.  I think misunderstood suffering is the greatest threat to all our passionate endeavors, all our goals, all our resolutions. Rarely do people stop wanting their dreams.  Its more that the pain of realizing those dreams becomes too much.  It starts to feel like its no longer worth it, like its all misery and no joy.  And so we quit.  We lost heart.  All because we begin to think that suffering is our enemy.

Here’s the funny thing, you will only suffer when the change you want is something good.


Nothing is going to resist you going more in debt.  Nothing will stop you from wasting more time watching TV or surfing the internet.  You will have a very easy time eating more junk food and consuming more sugary sweets in any form.  Living a half assed, wasted life will be surprisingly easy.

Its as if an unseen force in the world only opposes you when you want to change your life for the better.  Steven Pressfield (the Legend of Bagger Vance author) deals magnificently with this in his book The War of Art.  He calls this unseen force Resistance.  “Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher sphere. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually.” And if its not some higher calling, “Relax… Resistance will give you a free pass.”

This Resistance wants you to waste your life.  Its no wonder Jesus called this resistance Evil and said it would try to “kill, steal, and destroy” all real Life.  And its behind how we misunderstand our suffering.  If Resistance (aka Evil) can’t convince us to lay down and die in a boring life, it will try and get us to misunderstand our suffering.  Resistance wants us to believe that the suffering just isn’t worth it, that its not a path to true pleasure, that its actually making our lives miserable and not better.  It wants this because it wants to destroy any possibility that you will actually make yourself and the world better.  It is evil after all.

My Story of Crossfit

Here is a real world example form my life.

Two years ago, my wife started the year working out more, doing something called Crossfit.  I rolled my eyes at the time, thinking this to be the latest fitness fad.  But her coworkers were doing it together and so whatever.  Now this will be obvious to you once I say it but as a counselor I sit in a chair a lot.  Like all day minus the bathroom breaks.  Its a lot of emotional and mental work but very little physical work.  I shake hands. I lift my water bottle or coffee cup to my mouth.  That’s it.  So I had no leg to stand on in scoffing at her efforts.

A month into that year, three things happened in my life.  I had a birthday.  It was an ordinary birthday, but a mile marker of sorts.  And it got my wheels churning on how I’d been living my life.  Around this same time, I started not sleeping well.  It forced me to admit just how much anxiety I lived with from all the emotional intensity of my job.

And I clearly had no physical outlet for my stress.  Add to this that my wife was looking more amazing and was clearly more fit due to the fact that she had slow down for me on walks.  This was my moment of inspiration.  Something passionate in me said I needed to move, I needed to commit to some sort of exercise, for my body and my heart.

So I started Crossfit.

It was painful.  I found out its a lot like gym class for adults.  On steroids.  I was sore for a month straight.  Literally.  We were asked to do things like pull ups and hand stand push ups and double time jump ropes.  I could not do any of these things.  Add to this that the only class I could make because of my job was 6 AM.  And I am not a morning person.  I love night time.  This was a major adjustment for me.  This was opposed to my entire way of life, let alone my body.  My whole being had to change to make room for this new activity.


  • Holy s*#!, Sam. This is incredible!!
    There are so many things in my life this applies to. But I want to share one with you.
    I have been seeking out emotional healing and Fathering by God lately. I have been paying attention to the wounds in my heart and the general well being of my heart, instead of just ignoring it or shutting it out. And it has been loaded with suffering. I knew that it was going to hurt. I knew it would involve some suffering. But this is so much and so constant that I have really started to wonder whether I was going through some sort of post pardon depression (I had a baby a few months ago) or entering a season of deep depression or something.
    I’ve also started having all sorts of things whispered in my heart to stop me from continuing this search for healing. Things like “You are making all this up just so you can spend more time laying in bed and getting more attention.” “This pain is from something else, post pardon depression, the weather, lack of sleep- anything else.” “This pain will overwhelm you. You won’t be able to take it.” “There is NO way that your story deserves this level of pain. Nothing THAT bad has happened to you.” “Seeking healing is not worth this. It’s just not.” On and on it goes.
    So stumbling across this blog today has been a massive rescue.
    I can go on now, being reassured that this suffering is a normal part of seeking out healing and life. I know that I have God on my side and I will not be overwhelmed. I also know that there is life to be found on the other side of suffering. So much life.
    I am seeking that out like a pirate obsessed with treasure. No matter how crazy the storm gets.

    • Sarah, what a heart felt declaration of your journey inward. I love hearing how resolute you are to finding life! Its really inspiring. Even in the midst of some very immense pain. I would want to plead with you not to walk this journey alone! You probably get that. But just hearing your battle, it sounds fierce. May God provide the healing, community, and clarity you need.

      • Sam, I know it’s been two months, and it probably seems odd to even reply to your comment now. But I want you to know that it has meant a lot to me. It was very weighty- in a good way. I have read and and thought about it many, many times in these months.
        It shocked me. Because the number one thing that has kept and still tries to keep me from walking into my story is this line: “It’s not that bad.” It seems so true, that even saying this seems foolish.
        So for you to hear a tiny, little bit of my story and urge me to not walk alone in this hit me so hard. Once again, in a good way. Like I had been floating around in this fog of doubt and diminishment, and your words dropped me to the ground of “This is real.”
        Honestly, it’s super hard for me to stay on the ground. It still seems like I’m just being over-dramatic. But I’m starting to take a few steps on that ground.
        I am not alone. I, by the grace of God, am married to an amazing man. (I know you’d agree. He’s your client from Arizona, Josh. 🙂 ) He listens to my heart with much more validity than even I do. And I am also looking very seriously at going to therapy.
        I just wrote this to thank you. Your words are good and powerful. You’ve helped me so much more than you know, both from this little comment and from the many blog posts I have read. Keep writing! 🙂


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