Me at age 10: the year I starting hating resolutions.
“I don’t want to set a resolution,” my client said at our first meeting of the new year. “I don’t like goals, either. They always fail.”
Strong emotion almost always hides a desire for the thing being rejected: my client wanted to create change. She just didn’t want to want it, because she didn’t want to risk disappointment.
I so get it.
My own love-hate relationship to resolutions began at the tender age of ten. I had been given a diary for Christmas. My first one! It was gorgeous, with a silver, blue-eyed kitten playing with a butterfly on the cover and a darling golden lock clasping the pages shut!
“You can write your New Year’s resolutions in there,” my mother helpfully suggested.
Oh. My soaring heart sank. She was referring to my weight. I blushed, embarrassed. But then I squared my shoulders and set my jaw. You can do it, I told myself. You can lose ten pounds, and then you can be pretty and popular and fit in…
As it so often goes, I tried to lose the ten pounds but fell short of my goal. Or I met the goal only to regain the weight. As I got older, I folded more resolutions into the mix – spend less money, watch less TV, exercise more – all of which met the same fate. But every New Year’s Day, I would resolve again, sure things would be different this time!
To my chagrin – and shame – they weren’t.
Eventually I concluded that goals were the problem. I began to hate New Year’s and swore off resolutions.
This, of course, didn’t stop me wanting changes. It only left me feeling hopeless about creating them.
Enter Life Coach Training. Change is our specialty!
Coaching taught me to think about change less as an arrival and more as parallel processes:
– Identify the underlying intention of the change, so you can be all in
– Make the process of change enjoyable, so it’s easier
– Learn, notice and investigate the moments that you wobble, so you can manage them, instead of giving in to them.
It also taught me that there are better tools than just will power for creating change:
An intention is the energetic underpinning of a resolution. To find your intention, ask yourself why you want what you want. What will you have when you have it? What emotions will you experience? This taps your yearning, which is an inexhaustible source of motivation for change. I wrote a longer article on this recently.
Make it enjoyable.
If intention underpins change, fun makes it go and creates momentum.
– Tiny steps, celebrated. Break down the steps to the desired goal into laughably easy steps. Really. If you don’t snort at how easy a step will be to do, it isn’t small enough. Tiny steps taken add up more quickly than big steps not taken because they were too hard. When you do them, reinforce the new habit loop by celebrating yourself; it will make the next step easier.
– Embrace effort. Don’t fight it. Allow the new effort to be a little hard at the beginning and find a way to enjoy it. It takes energy to do new things. But keep at it and you’ll soon have habits that take much less effort to maintain.
– Do it with other people. At least one person but preferably a small group. Humans are social creatures; take advantage! Supportive groups give us energy, and shared endeavors bond us. Win-win!
Notice and investigate.
There will be a moment when you’re hungry or tired or sad or mad – in other words, when your will power is low – and you’ll be tempted to quit.
Notice this moment. You will be reaching for the thing that is counter to your resolution, and you will be feeling bad in your body.
Now, investigate: ask yourself, “What am I thinking and believing right now?”
The answer will probably be a thought that hurts or limits you. If it is, ask, “Is that true? Really?” The answer will almost certainly be no, and you’ll have awakened yourself from a trance.
This little move offers a reset at just the right moment by giving you some distance from the temptation and reconnecting you with your intention.
Thank goodness for the coaching approach to change! It gets results and enables me to be a confident guide to my resolution-fearing client.
She’s now on her way. How about you? What’s one takeaway from this article that you can integrate into your New Year’s resolving?