A New Year’s Solution: Advice from Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Monday, January 1, 2018

The season of resolution-setting has arrived, bringing with it discounted gym memberships and renewed commitments to ourselves. Daniel R.J. Joyce, S.J. ’88, executive director of mission programs at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, offers seasonal advice from the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Most of us have fraught relationships with our New Year's resolutions. Making the bold and yearlong commitment to a new routine or a change in diet is often a grand setup for frustration.

Ignatius of Loyola, the famous 16th century soldier, saint and founder of the Jesuits, would suggest that we dial back a bit on making resolutions. Instead, he would encourage taking our goals one day at a time.

One of Ignatius’ basic assumptions is the humble admission that there are limits to our human will power. We need to look for that little bit of extra divine help — a grace that can work on our fragile human nature in order to accomplish real change. Ignatius would recommend that we set realistic goals for ourselves one day at a time, through what he called the daily consciousness examination.  

At the end of each day Ignatius suggested that we evaluate how we did with the things we feel were healthy and good in our day, and ask for the grace to continue to do those things tomorrow.  Upon reviewing our day, we may also notice some things that we prefer not to have as part of our routine: an ill-spoken word, an excessive act or a discouraging thought. The Ignatian Examen asks us to make resolutions only for the next day. The trick is that we ask for a grace to live out those resolutions in an ordinary daily routine.

Between our focused effort and a little bit of God's help, we can achieve healthy living and goodness in the present moment by doing the do-able.

Media Contact

Executive Director of Mission Programs Daniel R.J. Joyce, S.J., teaches courses in theology and Ignatian spirituality. He can be reached for comment at djoyce@sju.edu, or by contacting the Office of Marketing and Communications at 610-660-3240

Expand this section