Have you set a New Year’s resolution for yourself this year? I have. My resolution? No More New Year’s Resolutions ! At least not in the way they’re traditionally done. Here’s why:
1) They’re based on all or nothing thinking. Whenever you’re aiming for a drastic change from one day to the next, you can pretty much rest assured that you’re setting yourself up for failure. Many people set overly ambitious resolutions to go to the gym everyday, stop eating sugar, quit smoking cold turkey, etc. And when they inevitably don’t live up to their expectations and “fall off the wagon,” they throw their hands up in defeat and say something like,
” It was just a New Year’s resolution after all, no one ever follows through with those. Maybe next year…”
2) They don’t take into account the change process. Have you ever heard the expression “two steps forward, one step back?” That’s pretty much how long lasting behavior change works. In order for real change to happen, we can’t see slip ups and set backs as anything more than what they really are: a temporary detour. A chance to reflect once again, like we did when we first brainstormed what our resolution would be, and with a curious, rather than judgmental, attitude, ask ourselves “what things might be getting in my way of achieving my goal?” If you want to inform yourself more about the “Stages of Change” process, check out my article, “Are You Ready to Go Abroad?” which might help you to be a bit more patient and empathetic with yourself as you attempt to make some changes at the start of this new year.
3) They lead us to reflect on the past year in a negative light. As 2014 drew to an end, I started thinking about what hopes I had for 2015. And in thinking about what I wanted the upcoming year to look like, I found myself focusing on everything that had been missing from 2014. I hadn’t read enough. Taken enough pictures. Traveled enough. Danced enough. Eaten healthy enough. Slept enough. Meditated enough. Been productive enough. Cleaned enough. Called my family enough. Saved enough. Written enough. Relaxed enough.
Enough! While this reflection was helping me to get good ideas for things to focus on in 2015, it left me feeling like 2014 had been a pretty terrible year. In fact, it wasn’t until I commented my concerns to a friend that I realized that I was looking at things from an entirely inaccurate point of view.
You can always find a part of your life where you could do more. However, if you only focus on where you could do better, you’ll probably end up feeling pretty negative and maybe even hopeless. Definitely not motivated, which is how you need to feel in order to make changes. With this in mind, I decided to reflect on 2014 from a “glass half full” attitude in order to complement this “not enough” thinking. And you know what? 2014 was an amazing year!
In 2014 I traveled to Santander, Spain, which I’d been waiting to check off my list for awhile. I danced outdoors on several occasions throughout Madrid. I ran a 10K. Taught myself about Organizational Psychology, Psycholinguistics and a bunch of other subjects, IN SPANISH, and passed all of the associated exams, which meant that I was able to have my degree recognized in Spain, which meant I could finally be licensed in Spain! I tried out skiing for the first time. Took a Reiki course. Facilitated a discussion group at TEDxMadrid (attended my first TEDx conference!). Started a blog (which did so well that it’s now morphed into the website it is today). Not to mention a dozen or so other things, like practicing assertiveness and not shutting down when I’m angry, that make me feel like I’m starting 2015 off as a more aware, and authentic version of myself.
So with all of this in mind, here’s my proposal for altering the traditional approach to New Year´s resolutions:
1) Make space for behavior change throughout the year. Does the future you envision for yourself match the actions that you’re carrying out today? You can ask yourself this not only on January 1st, but every day this year.
2) Practice forgiveness and empathy towards yourself. When embarking on a process of change, ask yourself if you’re making space for the fact that you’re a human. And that, as a human, you’re bound to make mistakes.
3) None of this ‘not enough” attitude. Rather than approaching change from a place of blame, shame and attitude of perfectionism, let’s focus on replacing the inner critic with our own personal cheerleader. Need some inspiration for how to do this? Check out this video
I have many things I want to accomplish in the upcoming twelve months. I see travel, good books and dance classes in my future. However, I think that when this year comes to an end, what I will be most proud of are the journeys I start this year, even if I put them on pause at some point, or don’t arrive at a tangible finish line by December 31st.
May this year be full of forgiveness, empathy, authenticity, patience, openness, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone!
What about you? Have you made a resolution for this year? Or are embracing the idea of no more new year’s resolutions too?