Why your resolutions may not be working...and what you can do instead
January brings a great energy and a time for new beginnings. Even though I think that personal growth and new beginnings can happen any day, ANY time of year, we often want to put the previous year behind and they start to reflect about what we really want to the next year to look like. It’s a time to have a renewed focus on ourselves, which can be very exciting.
Of course we hear so many people talking about resolutions at the beginning of the year -- and at the same time I’ve heard people joke about how they don’t even remember last year’s resolutions. We’ve all heard that the gyms start to get less crowded a few weeks into the New Year.
Although we can have the best intentions when making resolutions, sometimes it doesn’t take long to fall right back into our old ways.
So why is it so common for people to not keep their own resolutions?
Let's start at the beginning. Even the word “resolution” can feel heavy to some people. It can bring such a sense of pressure because it's something people feel they have to do each year. And when we don't reach them, we feel guilt. And we beat ourselves up. This does not nourish our souls!
If you would indeed like to make some changes (although there is no rule book that says you HAVE to on January 1), here's what you can do to start. Write a list of your "resolutions" and notice how your body feels when you’re writing them. Energized or drained? Expanded or contracted? Pay close attention and be honest with yourself. Give yourself permission to cross out or modify the ones that feel draining to you. Behavior change is just as much about INNER WORK as well as the outer work.
When something doesn't go as planned, you can remind yourself that behavior change can be a PROCESS. We are indeed creatures of habit. Since there are several stages of behavior change, starting small is best. BABY STEPS, one step at a time. If we want to run 10 miles and we’re not doing much physical activity at all now, we’re not going to wake up tomorrow running 10 miles. Sometimes we forget to plan for smaller goals. Even starting to wake up earlier, or putting on your running shoes in the morning can be a step. Once you have that down pat, the results can motivate you to continue to move forward.
Also, sometimes resolutions are vague and people make half-assed (sorry) commitments. It's okay to put yourself first - you are certainly worthy of committing to your personal development. It takes a DECISION in addition to getting CLEAR on your intentions and vision.
So what is YOUR vision? Go ahead and envision the ideal. What is it that you really want in the first place? Getting clear on your intentions is crucial to allow any goal to come to fruition. Think about your desired outcome and how you’d feel after accomplishing the goal. (Really feel it.) Write this down. This can be powerful in itself.
How do you want to feel a year from now? What can you do now to start to get there? You could start with a 3-month goal, and even break down action steps from there. Pretend it’s December and look back at the year. What would you want to have happened? That way you set yourself up for success now.
Once you make the decision and set the intention, PRIORITIZE. If you really want something and if it's really important to you, make it happen without blaming circumstances or other people. Tell someone (or multiple people) if you want accountability. Invest in a coach or other professional. When it comes to changing habits and doing something different (often out of our comfort zones), our subconscious minds want to come up with all kinds of excuses. Be aware of it and tell the ego to take a hike.
Another reason for the lack of follow-through is sometimes we set resolutions on what we think we “should” do instead of something we truly WANT to do deep down. We're more likely to reach a goal if it’s something that we are really excited about. So stop with the SHOULDING.
Goals / intentions / resolutions (whatever word resonates) will ideally be meaningful TO YOU in order for them to work well. Goals you find meaningful, interesting and personally important are ideal for personal growth. People who flourish in life feel a sense of purpose. Only you know what your values. You'll feel more authentic if your resolutions are truly in alignment with your highest self. When you're self-aware, you’ll be better able to align your energy with the goals while you’re taking action.
As cliché as it sounds, it does help to enjoy the journey so that it's not just about the temporary relief you feel when you reach the goal. Sure, although we want to feel great when we meet the goal, we also want to have a sense of purpose WHILE reaching the goal. That way it's not, “I’ll be happy when….” or “if ____ happens, then I’ll be happy.” Also, if your goals are meaningful, you won't be basing your happiness on external things.
There’s also a greater chance of reaching that goal if comes from a positive place within, not from a place of fear.
And here's a bonus for you if you have a goal that you’re REALLY excited about! Research has shown that activities you truly enjoy doing – ones that really make you light up - can bring on a “natural high.” Natural highs decrease stress and stimulate chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain. There are actually biological effects when you enjoy the process AND the outcome. How awesome that this can all be tied to your overall well-being too, right?
I also want to point out that goals can change, and that’s okay. You can still be working on your goals and taking inspired action no matter what. (Don't wait just in case you change your mind.)
Most of all, ALLOW. Take a deep breath, surrender, and just ALLOW. You don’t have to force it or make it more complex than it needs to be. Take a step back. Be kind to yourself. Align your action with your desires and you’ll be sure to get in the flow.
So what works for you? Have you successfully followed through with resolutions? Please share below!