Ah, New Year’s resolutions. Most of us make them, but few of us keep them. And yet, after the ball has dropped and we are drunk with the limitless possibility of a clean slate, we try again.
So why aren’t the majority of us able to achieve success with this well-meaning tradition? Let’s explore a few common struggles regarding resolutions, then I’ll offer some fresh ideas to help you create achievable authentic goals for 2017.
Struggle #1: Staying in the shallow end
Most resolutions are created in the shallow end, or surface level, of our mind. That simply means that we sit down, spend a short amount of time pondering all the things we wish we could change, and write them down with the expectation of success. Basically, we want something for nothing. An example of this would be, “I will lose weight.” Some of us will go one extra step in proclaiming a plan of action such as, “I will lose weight by going to the gym three times a week,” but then lose our oomph after we get off track once or twice.
The difficulty with surface-level thinking is that it’s short-sighted. Many of our resolution goals involve ongoing issues we have struggled with for some time, so naturally they will not be achieved with a short-term fix.
Challenge: Instead of staying in the shallow end, expand the boundaries of your comfort zone by going deeper. Try this:
- Write your goal on a piece of paper. For this example, we’ll use lose weight.
- Close your eyes for a few moments and steady your breathing. Ask yourself this question: What is it about losing weight?
- Wait for a few moments.
- When the answers arrive, set a minute on your timer and write them down. My answers were: feel better, stuck, heavy, baggage, getting older, freedom, want to feel healthy, be a good example to the kids, like how I look in my clothes, be satisfied.
- When the timer goes off, take a look at your list and see if you can find a common theme or notice anything interesting (if you can’t, ask a trusted friend for help–sometimes this outside viewpoint makes all the difference). My list helped me see that my ultimate goal for losing weight is really about taking responsibility for my health, practicing self-acceptance, and modeling positive self-care behaviors to my children.
- Cross out your original goal and replace it with your updated goal: take responsibility for my health, practice self-acceptance, and model positive self-care to the kids. My updated goal has become more achievable because it has personal meaning to me, so there’s a strong motivation to invest. In addition, this goal feels much more spacious with room for progress as opposed to rigidly demanding perfection.
- Now you’re ready to brainstorm some achievable action items. I like to focus on one month at a time, then re-evaluate and update my goals and action plan at the beginning of each month. Some of the action items for my goal are: drink a glass of water before dinner, eat one piece of fruit with breakfast, get out in nature with the kids every Sunday, read something enjoyable before bed, find something to appreciate about my body as I brush my teeth. Try to keep your goals specific, achievable, and fun and you will have a much better chance of success! Some other ideas for success are to set daily or weekly reminders on your phone to keep you on track, or to find a fun accountability partner to check in with once a week for motivation and encouragement.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, how do they typically turn out for you? With which of your goals will you challenge yourself to “go deeper” in order to expand your understanding of the underlying significance? Does this significance motivate you to action?
Ponder with me and leave me a comment below!
Posted by Michelle Wells, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer