Are you one of those who steadfastly makes New Year’s resolutions each January 1, only to see them evaporate into good intentions more quickly than the winter snow? Or, do you just not bother any more? Or, perhaps you are one of the few who make–and keep–their resolutions each year.
With this last post of 2014 (I am taking next week off to work on my resolutions), I thought it might be useful to think back on the posts of the past few months, and see how they can guide you through making New Year’s resolutions that stick.
Start with what’s in your heart. If it is something that you “really should” or “need to” do, you may start down the road, but the journey is likely to stop far short of the destination. Eating healthier, getting more exercise, quitting smoking, sleeping 6-8 hours a night…these are all worthy resolutions. And, if you are making one or more of them your resolutions, it is because doing so will be a big–and tough–change for you.
Big, tough changes don’t succeed because they are the right things to do; they succeed because in our hearts (not in our minds) we cannot imagine them failing. They succeed because they are rooted in our hearts, not our heads.
What change, or changes, have roots in your heart? That is where your New Year’s resolution needs to begin. Don’t start with “what” you are going to do. A resolution that you will fulfill is not about going to the gym more often; there is something deeper. Start with what is in your heart. Start with Why.(See the post, Don’t Start With a Plan!)
Write your change story. Reflect on your “why.” Envision achieving it. You have just crossed the finish line of your first marathon. You are standing on the stage, mid-career, receiving your college degree in the field you have wanted as your career your entire life. You have woken up in your new home in Costa Rica for the first time. You have come out as gay, or bi, or trans, and you know what it means to live as who you truly are–without fear or hesitation or regret–for the first time in your life.
Write your change story from where it is rooted. It is a story that is driven by your passion to make it true; let that passion flow into the story. Yes, there will be some talk about the “how’s” and the “what’s.” But if the change is that deep and important, many of those things will be mysteries now. Think about a few signals that you are on the right track. Using one of the examples above…it is not that you have registered for college, but that you have begun studies in the career of your choice.
There is much more to writing your change story. How will you know when you get there? Who is in your story? What is your time frame? Why is it important to honor the past, and to respect and believe in yourself? What is the flow “sparkline”? (See the posts What’s Your Story? Parts 1-3 for more guidance on writing your story.)
Tell your story. First, tell it to yourself. Stand in front of the mirror. Look yourself in the eye. Speak your truth. Yes, really! It may be difficult, or even impossible, at first. But if you can’t stand up to witnessing your own story it is unlikely that you will be able to live it. Tell it again, and again, and again. And tell it to others.
(For more, see the post Telling Your Personal Change Story.)
Anchors, aweigh. We each have our own anchors. They help to keep us in place in our lives, and provide stability when things get tough. They may be other people, our beliefs and practices, possessions, a job…
What are your anchors? Will they help keep you faced into your New Year’s resolution? Will they weigh you down until you cut yourself free from the resolution? Do you need to cut yourself free from (or in some other way redefine your relationship to) them?
Our anchors are critical in times of change. So is maintaining the relationship with them (including no relationship at all) that will enable us to succeed. (Learn more about working with your anchors in Anchors, Aweigh!.)
When the going gets tough… If your resolution has its roots in your heart, the only reason it might seem easy right now is because you really don’t know what it will take to succeed (think “honeymoon”). It isn’t a matter of “if the going gets tough.” It is “when the going gets tough.”
Yes, when the going gets tough, you need to be tough as well. But, unfortunately, too often we think that we can tough it out alone when we can’t. And, if it is a tough change, chances are, we can’t tough it out alone. The twelve step programs are a great reminder of this. No one thinks that alcohol, or substance use, or sex, or gambling addictions are healthy choices in life. Twelve step programs are there to help people move through, and beyond, these addictions. And, each of them uses some form of an accountability buddy (think “sponsor”) to do so.
We need discipline if we are to realize the promise of our New Year’s resolution. And with the discipline, we may well also need an accountability buddy. (See Discipline 2.0 to learn more about the discipline needed to achieve your resolution goals.)
Welcome to the season in which many of us promise to make positive change for ourselves, and perhaps the world. These resolutions require resolve. My wish for you this holiday season is that however you may celebrate it, may it be a celebration of joy and wonder. I also wish that as you face the New Year, you find the resolve deep in your heart to continue on a journey of growth, health, healing, and happiness. And, finally, I wish for you a joyous, wondrous, and heart-felt fulfilling New Year!