It’s the first part of a new year, and resolutions are popping up left and right. How often have you found your firm decision to do or not do something work out? Did you stop smoking, lose weight and keep it off, eat healthier all year, become a better parent or partner, or find your dream job? Or, like many New Year Resolutions, is your untouched gym membership taunting you as you berate yourself for still saying “this is the last one?”
I read on Forbes that only 8% of New Years Resolutions are successfully met. That means that 92% of New Years Resolutions are not met. That is an overwhelming majority. What else do we continue to do, year after year, with such a low success rate?
Perhaps it is in the idea of a Resolution that we falter. Making a firm decision to do or not do something is a hard-line. What happens, come February, when you forget one day to go to the gym? Or tax stress hits and you’re back to smoking? Or as the months go by, you slip back into being stressed, overwhelmed, and disconnected from your life? One slip can feel like we have completely left our resolutions behind, so we drop them completely. “I already screwed up, so why keep trying?”
There are two parts to this I’d like to highlight, as a different way of approaching your New Years goals. First, I’d like to change them to New Years Intentions. Things you’re aspiring to do, day by day, as if to heal an old wound or bad habit. Pursuing goals with the acknowledgement that there will be slip ups, but that they happened yesterday, so today is another opportunity to try. It takes a significantly long period of time to rewire the brain into forming new habits, patterns of relating, and coping. I don’t subscribe to the 30 days to a new habit idea. In strongly ingrained behaviors like addiction, depression, or unhealthy relationships, I often say plan on two years. Two years from the time you’re committed to your intention and actively working on it ongoing, your new behavior will become natural and your old behavior a memory.
Secondly, noticing the difference between self-punishment and self-compassion. I read this article (meant for therapists) in helping clients transform their new years self-berating into a more compassionate, empowered view. By moving from a hard-line decision to a fluid path in a healthy direction, you automatically position your mind in a more positive state. If you focus on your intention, you can make choices that will lead you in the direction you wish to go, instead of forcing yourself to become something different. The article expresses themes I often discuss with clients, including understanding that we all do the best with what we have at the time, to look at missteps as opportunities to learn instead of ammo against the self, and that the path is rarely easy, clean, or linear. By acknowledging these ideas, you will be better able to have compassion for wherever you are on your journey.
Finding your intentions, still? Focus on goals that can have small, successful choices each day. Assess your values as a person, partner, parent, and family. A healthier diet, more exercise, being more present with self or family. Each day you can choose a healthy food, park farther away from the store, and put your phone down to spend time with your people. If you struggle today, then try again tomorrow. Whatever your intention, keep in mind that losing weight, finding love, making more money, etc. will not bring you happiness. Certainly, these things can help. However, grasping at them like, “once I have ____, I will be happy” is a dangerous and slippery slope into misery and suffering. Remember that you have everything you need in you to be happy, right now. Happiness cannot come from outside of yourself, so you must look within to find and embrace the you that is already peaceful, balanced, and happy. Holding this in your heart, you can strive to better yourself, your life, and your family. Not to obtain happiness, but to live a life that aligns with your values and inner wellbeing.
Counseling can be a guide to empower you along your path. If you could use a little extra help, click on Get In Touch above to reach out.
Go forth with your intentions and thrive,