Every year, thousands of people make New Year resolutions, each of them determined to change their lives or aspects of them. By the third or fourth of January, many have broken them and by the middle of the month, most have forgotten them completely, yet alone used them as the impetus to change their lives. What is this collective urge to usher in a New Year, determined to make it different from the previous one?
Why are so many people failing to put in place the changes they believe will transform their lives?
New Year Resolutions are often made in response to a self-censoring of one’s behaviour or punishment for not doing what they believe will bring happiness. Giving up smoking, losing weight or getting fit are often at the top of the list when it comes to the top ten resolutions. Self-disgust, low self esteem or admonishment by others is often the reason for making resolutions. When we look at New Year resolutions, they are focused on changing aspects of one’s unacceptable behaviour – rarely are they couched in terms that reflect a larger vision for our lives or the values that might underpin a personal mission for what we want lives are about.
Thus, conscious and unconscious resistance to the punishments that resolutions demand, sabotage us from keeping them. The outcome is that we continue our lives as before with humour, cynicism or increased self-loathing for our inability to change. We risk, as Henry Thoreaux said ‘Living a Life of Quiet Desperation’.
What alternatives are there for changing aspects of our lives in more productive and nurturing ways?
The following seven questions help you look at your life more strategically so changes you desire can be assessed in terms of their alignment with your vision and desires.
- What do you really want to do with your life? What do you want your life to stand for and how would you like to be remembered?
- What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Don’t answer this question within the constraints of what you believe is currently possible. Think big and worthy dreams.
- What are your values and what is so important to you that you would stake ‘even life itself’ to act in ways to celebrate these values?
- What thoughts, feelings and actions do you believe align with achieving your vision, values and dreams of how you want your life to be?
- What stops you from achieving the life you so desire? What reasons do you give yourself for not having what you want? Do you blame others for your failures or are you taking full responsibility for your own life?
- What reasons do you give yourself for not having what you want? Do you blame others for your failures or are you taking full responsibility for your entire life?
- What do you need to do to support achievement of your desired life? If those supports are not in place, what stories do you tell yourself for why this is so?
By asking these and similar questions, you can create a pen picture of the life you want. Take that picture and set goals, targets and the means for measuring and assessing your success.
The late Earl Nightingale once said ‘Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal’. Dare to dream something worthy and examine your thoughts, feelings and actions to assess the extent to which you are progressively realising it.
New Year Resolutions are temporary ways to assuage the anxiety of not living the life you truly want. They provide a temporary salve hoodwinking you into believing that positive change is on the horizon.
This year, replace your New Year resolutions with value aligned ways to create a life that is worth living so temporary setbacks no longer determine your success or failure.