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How to Make New Resolutions Using Permaculture Methods

2016 has begun as the years before it once began: There is a whole lot of opportunity on the horizon. Suddenly, as the Christmas season sweeps by we are left with a New Year’s resolution, theoretically a decision to make and live with for at least the coming year, often with the hopes of true and lasting change. Classically, that leads people to singular pursuits like flossing everyday, losing weight, quitting smoking, or spending more time with family. Despite these worthy intentions, New Year’s resolutions on the whole are notoriously unsuccessful, often failing even before the end of January.

But, what if we approached our resolutions with a permaculture-like tilt. What if we thought beyond one specific change and more along the lines of incorporating genuinely far-reaching goals? What if we decided to go about these changes more consciously, conscientiously, and cautiously with regards to ourselves, others, and the planet? We could use similar techniques of observation and adjustment, time-stacking and sensible design, plotting out the most appropriate resolutionary actions to be implemented productively throughout the year.

If our resolutions are consistently failing, perhaps it’s because we’ve been doing it all wrong: mono-resolutely, so to speak. Such a one-sided approach, we know from the debilitating agricultural system, is usually not the best. Instead, we need flex our permaculture chops and follow our hearts by using our brains. If we are going to bother going through the motions of change, we ought to do it the best way we know how: productively, holistically, and sustainably.

Truly Think Through the Change You Want: Productively

Sometimes our resolutions get ahead of themselves, and we are striving to accomplish something we needn’t even be addressing at the moment. Flossing may be great a thing, but what good will it do a candy and cola fiend with a pack a day habit and a frizzy toothbrush. Instead, maybe the resolution could be to improve dental care, first addressing the poisonous inputs, fixing what is not working, and then worrying about flossing, a sort of final finesse to maintain that refurbished and stabilized set of choppers. If flossing every day is the ultimate goal, it behooves us to first get to a state where it counts for something.

This sort of introspection rings true for nearly every aspect of life, just as it does with each zone and garden bed of a permaculture design system. If it is really more time with the family we are after, are we ignoring obvious issues? Obviously, a tomato won’t grow in a shady nook with a dry bed of sand on the ground. We have to look at our family time similarly. Is the time we do have with them spent doing positive things? Or, is our job too demanding and taking away from the family life we want? If we can figure out how to get the quality time, where the sun is shining and the soil is rich, maybe our goals can grow and inspire truly positive change.

Come Up with a Design Plan: Holistically

Designing our goal encourages us to take the vow seriously. Often New Year’s resolutions are half-hearted or somewhat silly, and while having a spot of fun is certainly worthwhile, a more lasting change, by definition, is what a resolution is about. If we are taking what we are doing seriously, it calls for real effort, and if we are going to devote our time, energy, resources, finances and whatever else to a task, we should make it count for something. As we saw with flossing or as we see with soil, one simple change won’t necessarily provide the difference we are after, but when we approach things more holistically, real and lasting improvements can be made.

All too often resolutions come in the form of simple blanket statements, and while simplicity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, over-simplification can be. For example, quitting smoking isn’t usually as easy as declaring the intention then magically going about it trouble-free. It takes real commitment, support, and contingency plans. What are the reasons we have for doing this, and why does it matter to us? To our family and friends? To the environment? What do we do to counter the cravings in those cigarette situations? What happens if we slip up? How do we keep the resolution going despite the setback? The more we plan and plot simple solutions, the better equipped we are for succeeding and, likely, get more overall benefit.

Choose a Goal That’ll Mean Something in the Long Run: Sustainability

Photo: (Courtesy of Wonderlane)
Photo: (Courtesy of Wonderlane)

It’s easy to say I’ll drink more water in the coming year, but when we take the time to consider why, how it affects our health, we realize drinking water may just be the tip of a bigger iceberg. Then, we think of the repercussions our better health will have on our lives, our loved ones and so on. Perhaps we’ll become a more able-bodied, durable friend or father or daughter or spouse. Perhaps more money and time can be spent productively rather than used up with doctor’s appointments. Perhaps drinking water is just one of the many avenues we need to take in order to get to the real goal of being healthy and improving our existence. If so, how can we really get there?

Ultimately, the idea of the resolution is to personally make a lasting, impactful, positive modification to how things currently are. That change may be about improving our health, living greener, or becoming more self-reliant. Whatever it is, the idea is that it’ll mean something next year and in the years to come. Knowing the long-term implications of what we are doing now reminds us that whatever sacrifices or tenacity necessary are for a good much greater than this exact moment. We are resolving ourselves to a grander design, one that will produce enduring results.

But, In the End, We Must Remember How Permaculture Works

Photo: (Courtesy of Alex Indigo)
Photo: (Courtesy of Alex Indigo)

As important as any of these resolute aspects, it is equally relevant to remember that we are using permaculture methodology here, and such techniques rely on observing, analyzing, and adjusting. If the design doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean we’ve failed. Rather, it means we need to get back to the drawing table, learn from our mistakes, and keep planting trees (ideas, habits, or whatever it is we are doing). The point, at least in the beginning, is to reach that productive, self-sustaining resolution and not necessarily how we get there (afterwards, we can share the knowledge).

Point in case, perhaps some of us have dropped the ball on our resolutions already, maybe we didn’t even bother coming up with something for New Year’s, that doesn’t mean it’s too late. The holiday is just a motivating factor, a reminder to us all to keep up with our self-improvement, but we don’t need it to make a new resolution. Whatever time of year it is, there is always a little something to be done on the farm, and it’s always a great time to devote ourselves to becoming better people and better communities. That’s how permaculture works.

Feature Photo: (Courtesy of Epic Fireworks)

Jonathon Engels

The financially unfortunate combination of travel enthusiast, freelance writer, and vegan gardener, Jonathon Engels whittled and whistled himself into a life that gives him cause to continually scribble about it. He has lived as an expat for over a decade, worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited dozens of others in the meantime, subjecting the planet to a fiery mix of permaculture, music, and plant-based cooking. More of his work can be found at Jonathon Engels: A Life About.

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