Forget elusive new year resolutions
I have always counted myself among the large number of people who make resolutions to better themselves around this time of year. I’ve always known, of course, that the rate at which these so-called “new year resolutions” fail is high. Yet somehow I believed I would beat the odds and achieve all those elusive goals. It’s never really happened.
The rate at which new year resolutions fail is high – 80% according to some studies.
All sorts of approaches have been proposed to increase the success rate of new year resolutions, from making small-step resolutions to changing your mindset and making yourself accountable for change, to setting a theme rather than a goal. As a life coach, I see the value in each of these approaches. I have applied them myself and have often helped clients apply them. And yet, I have always felt the need for some deeper inspiration to sustain change in the new year.
Let gratitude inspire change
Looking back at the past year, I am proud of what I have achieved. While some of my achievements were set as objectives at the beginning of the year, the truth is that the broader change I have achieved was neither planned nor foreseeable. I am very grateful that people around me, my circumstances and no doubt my unconscious desire for change helped me better myself. So this year I am trying something different to the traditional resolution-setting approach.
I will allow the past to inspire the future.
Whatever that may be.
I am starting with gratitude. In these times of health pandemic, economic uncertainty and additional mental health stressors, it’s easy to focus on what we don’t like in our lives. It’s human nature to take what we have for granted and ignore that we should be grateful for it. It may be being healthy, having supportive family or friends, having a stable job, having time to indulge your passions, helping others – imagine how you would feel if you didn’t have at least some of those in your life? So reflect and be grateful.
In the context of shaping my coming year, I am using gratitude as a means to reinforce positive feelings associated to certain people or events. Surfacing these upbeat feelings helps me understand what I want to focus 2021 on. It also gives me a glimpse of the deep unconscious drivers that will support, or hinder, changing my behaviours.
A new way of looking at new year resolutions
This is what I have learnt so far from my reflection on what made change real in 2020:
- A deep desire to change is necessary before any change can be considered. Setting a resolution, even establishing goals and action plans won’t achieve much if you don’t understand what’s going on in your mind. Say, for example, that your resolution is to keep in touch with friends more often – if you don’t understand why you keep on prioritizing other activities over calling a friend you simply won’t change your behaviour.
- Focusing on how you want to feel rather than what you want to achieve helps. Forcing yourself to exercise every morning to lose extra weight isn’t that motivational. However, recognizing the positive feelings exercising brings to your life, and experiencing those feelings every day, can be addictively inspiring.
- The path to big change lies in small steps. Aim to do something slightly differently each day of the year: some changes will exceed your expectations; some will disappoint you. Either way, you will learn something.
- Social commitment makes a big difference. Sharing your hopes and achievements with people close to you gives them a life of their own – if you lose sight of what you want or what you should be grateful for, people will remind you!
- Being compassionate to yourself is a good idea. No matter how much you plan, and no matter what you expect, life usually has other ideas. Accepting the ebb and flow of life means not getting upset if things don’t go your way all the time. Be patient!
You will notice that I am not actually setting myself any specific goal for 2021. I am setting a broad goal to have positive feelings by balancing ‘going with the flow’ and making small changes. Of course I have a life purpose to fulfil, but 2020 taught me that the best way to make that happen is to feel good about where I am at each moment in time.
“Most people will passively do exactly what they did last year. Whatever you do, don’t let that person be you.” [Richie Norton]
So, are you tempted to try take a slightly different approach to focusing this new year? Give it a try… Who knows what 2021 may hold? Share what you come up with @marcus.cecil.coaching.
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