Resolutions lead to disappointment. Here's a better way to make changes you will keep and love.
Today on New Years millions of people are making their resolutions. Few will succeed, and the rest will be disappointed with themselves. Not a great way to start the year.
Don't make resolutions. They are only driven by things you think you should improve about yourself instead of what you really want in your life. As a result, you will lose interest and struggle to force yourself to keep doing it. This is because you won’t be fueled by a passion for something you find fun, interesting or want badly enough to make the changes last.
Change is hard and you need to really be motivated to get through the days when you are fighting against yourself. If you pick a change you can actually enjoy, is something you can easily achieve and leaves you feeling good, you have greater chance of success. But if you are making a change to please someone else or because you “should”, you won’t have the drive in you to stick with it until it becomes easier and a part of you and your lifestyle.
A friend of mine, Denise, pointed out to me that there is a difference between making a resolution and an intention, where a resolution suggests we have to overcome what is wrong in our life and an intention is aligning ourselves to our hearts and spirit. While the dictionary doesn’t make much of a distinction between them, I think her view offers a great way to approach the New Year. Instead of making resolutions, think about what you really want in your life and what your values are. What does your heart tell you that you need more of? What are you tolerating that you want to change so that you are happier? What is your body trying to tell you that would make you feel better?
An intention is a clear vision of where you want to go or what you want to achieve. You may want to feel physically freer and better by losing weight, and may even know how much you would like to lose.
As important as determining how much you want to lose, you want to know why you want this and what you will get from losing the weight. It might be to feel physically better in a specific way, to feel more sexually appealing to improve a relationship, to have the energy and stamina to do what you love most, or to reduce your risk of a particular illness. Identifying what you really want to accomplish and why strengthens your intention, and it helps you stay clear on why it matters to make a significant change in your lifestyle.
Next, consider ways for your intention to be specific and measurable in a manner that is realistic. If you set out to do too much, you will likely struggle to keep at it. Most people quit because they overdo it and can’t maintain the expectations they have set for themselves. Maybe it is best to start off slowly and build momentum as you adapt to the changes in your schedule. Maybe taking baby steps and gradually adding more as you get proficient and acclimated are best for you. Think of other times and what has and hasn’t worked well for you. What can you learn from those situations and what would you do differently?
It isn’t a competition to be first or best or the fastest. It is about making a lifestyle change, which happens when you embrace the changes you are making in your life. It is far easier to embrace change when it occurs in stages, at the pace that is best for you, and in turn becomes enjoyable and fulfilling. But that isn’t how most of us go about New Year’s Resolutions. The typical approach is to pick a program or routine that offers fairly rapid results, whether it is to lose weight, quit smoking, learn a new skill or get fit. Once done, the assumption is that you have completed the resolution. Whether you have adopted it as a part of your lifestyle is another matter.
The point isn’t to abandon the programs, but to understand which ones are really right for you and when is the best time to do them. It is also to have a longer term view of the process so that you incorporate what you get from the programs in a way that helps you embrace the changes you want into a new way of living. An analogy to this is going on a diet to reach a goal but then going back to your old way of eating. What does that really accomplish? You don’t end up with a new way of eating that helps you lose weight for the long term. You don’t enjoy the process, and you may even rebel against it to the point of taking up worse habits that set you further away from where you want to be.
So don't make resolutions for the New Year. Make intentions that will leave you feeling good about yourself.