It’s that time of the year again where all anyone can talk about is New Years’ Resolutions. (Hang in there folks, it typically only lasts about 12-14 days. It’ll all be over soon, I promise.) Even though I’m a HUGE fan of setting goals, I’m absolutely not the resolution-making type. In fact, I don’t even like the term “resolutions”. Admittedly, the second the word leaves your mouth, I’ve already formed the following assumptions: (1) you’ve generated a list of all the stuff you know you SHOULD do; and (2) it’s never gonna happen.
You may be thinking “that’s very negative, Coach” but I’m going to share my logic with you anyway. Resolutions are really just decisions, not actions. For example, I’ve decided (MANY times) to eat fewer jelly beans, which doesn’t mean that I actually ate fewer jelly beans, I just decided to. See the distinction: decision vs. action. Remember that old Seinfeld episode where Jerry is arguing with the car rental agent about his reservation? It’s a lot like that argument- we all seem to know how to MAKE the resolution, we just don’t know how to KEEP the resolution and unfortunately the most important part of the resolution is not the MAKING, it’s the KEEPING. Just like the rental agent in that episode, we’re seriously lacking follow through. Let’s investigate that further, shall we?
While recently perusing some articles related to the making and keeping of resolutions, it occurred to me that resolutions are just mechanisms for improving quality of life. Think about it: year after year, we reflect and identify certain areas of our lives in need of improvement, recognizing that with a few tweaks we’d be much happier, healthier and more efficient. So we’re hot to trot and 100% committed to implementing these positive changes…for about 24-48 hours. Follow me so far?
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve personally never met anyone who DIDN’T want to be happier, healthier and more efficient and therefore, logically, we should be banging out resolutions at a pretty good clip…right? (crickets) Okay, what’s the problem then? Why do so many of us repeatedly fail to keep resolutions? Are we all secretly wishing for sad, sick and miserable lives? Is it self-sabotage? Or are we just plain lazy (gasp)? I believe the answer is really rather simple: many of us just don’t believe (for longer than a fleeting moment as we flip the calendar and move from one year to the next) that we actually deserve better. I realize that may sound a bit odd but bear with me while I explain further.
On January 1st, filled with starry-eyed optimism on the eve of a new year and a new beginning, we get fired up. We’re finally ready to commit to self-care, right up until the point where reality sets in and we revert back to putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own. I mean, let’s face it, it’s hard to find time for self-care when the kids need to be shuttled to the four corners of the Earth, the laundry and dishes are piling up, our bosses and clients demand our best, and our significant others are desperately seeking our attention. Sadly, it isn’t long before our “selfish” resolutions are once again eclipsed and we find ourselves nowhere near the top of our own priority lists.
Full disclosure: I’ve never made a single New Years’ Resolution. However, being an enthusiastic proponent of goal setting, I tried something a little different last year- a radical, yet remarkably simple, three-step approach that I strongly encourage you to try.
Step 1: Ditch all your resolutions. Yep, I said it. Ditch them.
Step 2: Take a step back and examine your world through a different lens. Forget all the things in your life you wish you’d done differently. Forget the regrets. Dismiss all thoughts of “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve”; hindsight is, and always will be, 20/20. Set all that stuff aside and give yourself some credit for a change. Recognize that where you are right now- despite every obstacle you’ve faced- didn’t happen by chance. Whether you were a single parent who raised a child to be a fine young adult, or a first generation college graduate who overcame every barrier placed in your way, or a survivor of an emotional trauma that could’ve easily crushed you, pause and remember how insurmountable your obstacle felt at the time. Recall how daunting each challenge appeared in the moment. Allow yourself to appreciate that, on your own strength, you emerged victorious. So what if the battle left you a little scarred- the strongest people very often are- you’re a survivor who deserves a better, happier, more fulfilled life.
Step 3: Instead of making resolutions, make promises to yourself. We make a thousand decisions each day but promises come with certainty; you’re vowing to make it happen. Let’s revisit my jelly bean example. Which of these statements has more teeth: (a) “I’ve decided to eat fewer jelly beans” OR (b) “I promise to eat fewer jelly beans” (not sure why I’d do that but…). See what I did there? When you promise something, the action is implied.
Think of it as a giant “thank you” to your own warrior spirit for all the sacrifices made, a display of heart-felt gratitude for getting us this far. After all, we bend over backwards and tie ourselves into knots in order to keep every promise we’ve made to those we care about. I’m simply asking you to apply that same level of commitment to the one person who’s never failed you, will never leave you, and can be counted on to face any battle necessary to ensure your safety and security. You. Wonderful, passionate, courageous you.
In 2015 and every year that follows, honor your inner warrior by refusing to allow yourself to settle for anything less than the awesome life you truly deserve.