Today, 17th of January, is Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day. According to the ever reliable internet at least. People, we are off the hook.
Say bye-bye to your resolution.
Out of interest, what was it? Mine was to be a better friend and family member. Reflecting on 2017, when I was happy, what’s important, made this resolution seem like a good idea. Positive, affirmative, bringing more of what I want into my life. All the things we’re told make this a ‘good thing’.
Well, it’s not.
The sentiment is nice, I’ll give you that. And the thought of more contact with my friends and family gives me warm fuzzies, I’ll concede that too. But it’s still no good.
Pathway to Fulfilment
Resolutions, as we usually make them, provide no pathway to actually fulfilling them. No roadmap. No definition of success. Just some wishy-washy, feel good intention. If you followed through, it will improve your life in some way, but how are you going to follow through?
The straightforward fix is to reframe the resolution into a concrete habit or action.
You want to learn to watercolour? (Another of my misguided New Years resolutions, believe it or not). -> attend a six week introduction to watercolour painting course
You want to get fit? -> work with a personal trainer for three months
You want to be more productive? -> wake up an hour earlier to work on your novel, 5 days a week
You want to be a better friend? -> write and post a piece of snail mail every single week for the entire year.
You want to learn to manage your money -> track your spending daily with a Kakeibo journal
Focus on the process. Be concrete. The answer to ‘did I complete my New Year’s Resolution?’ should be yes or no. You either fulfilled it or you didn’t. Making the resolution action focused, solves a lot of the questions and unknowns that become the roadblocks to achieving the goal. Take learning to watercolour. Should I follow Youtube videos or a Skillshare course or just play around? What’s the difference between using paints and pencils? What kind of paper do I use? If I just play around a few times, have I actually learnt anything? Attending an introduction course answers everything and removes the mental chatter. In my experience, that makes it a whole lot less daunting to actually front up and do the dam thing (so maybe I should enrol in a watercolour course this year and finally do that resolution).
One Step at a Time
Who here is guilty of declaring I’m going to climb Mt Everest and they haven’t even been above the snow line? Interesting analogy but let’s roll with it. I am. I have absolutely thought I’m going to transform my life, simply by mentally asserting that from tomorrow, I’m going to be able to stand on my head. Not likely. I could stand on my head (with a bit of yoga and effort), but life changing? Questionable.
A little research on Psychology Today turned up that the main reason why people don’t keep resolutions is “their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves.” We set big goals because we’re bombarded with dream big messaging. If it doesn’t scare you, it not big enough right? We do a little mental digging until we scare ourselves and go that’s the thing. This year I’m going to learn to BASE jump (what is with the extreme sports today?!). We find ourselves with this gap between being scared of heights today and wanting to parachute off a cliff in the next few months.
Does the resolution need to be started smaller and built up over time? Meditate for 5 minutes daily, adding 5 minutes each month until reach 30? Or running 2 days per week, building to 5? Or going up every tall building in your city to deal with your fear of heights? Use the year as your time frame and think about how you get from where you are now, to where you want to be in eleven and a half months’ time.
Over the course of a year, you can achieve more than you realise. So, it is important to have that stretch resolution. But equally important is breaking it down so the starting point is an achievable increase from where you are at. Each day that you manage to meditate for five minutes, creates the belief that you can do tomorrow. And then for ten minutes. As your confidence builds, you create more positive feedback. Suddenly you’re at day 100, so proud of yourself for sticking at it and you wouldn’t break that streak for anything. Start where you are so you can build momentum up to where you want to be.
Focus on One Resolution
I am chronic for wanting to do everything all at once. I’m going to attend four yoga classes a week and start a meditation practice and I really want to learn Tai Chi after I tried it in China that one time and go on the Vipassana retreat my colleague recommended and….anxious yet? Fast track to nowhere.
Change just one of your habits that creates the most change (Entrepreneur).
Just one. Did anyone else just feel a whole lot of pressure lift or was it just me? Yea, I thought so. Focusing on one thing at a time makes it much more likely we’ll succeed at whatever it is we’re trying to do. We know that. The trick, and tricky part, is that creates the most change. You need to get the most bang for your buck. How do you figure that out? You need to have criteria.
With my yoga/meditation/Tai Chi/retreat dilemma it came down to wanting something all encompassing, a mind, body and soul practice. Plus I was after an ongoing habit so a retreat, while beneficial, it wasn’t going to tick the box at this point. Meditation is great for the mind and soul but I wasn’t getting physically stronger from watching my breath. Tai Chi and Yoga both provide physical, mental and spiritual benefits so what was the tie breaker? It came down to that I was already doing Yoga, had a teacher and studio I adored and I knew what the deal was. Tai Chi was more of an unknown. In the end it was a no brainer to double down on Yoga. The mental exercise of evaluating my options helped me to renew my commitment to my practice, free from the distraction of what else could be out there.
Look at your list of resolutions and figure out what you want to achieve. What’s your decision criteria? Maybe it’s about practicality, learning HIIT workouts is more time efficient than marathon running. Maybe it’s a feeling, dancing brings you a feeling of joy like nothing else does. What outcomes do you want? Find your one habit that going to create the most change.
Ditch the New Year’s Resolution, Form a Habit
Now you can transform your resolution into a bonafide success. Focus on one change, build it up over time and keep it action orientated. You’ve figured it out. All you’ve got to do now, is show up, day after day, week after week and execute.
My be a better friend and family member resolution has become arrange a catch up once a week. I do one in person with a fellow Londoner and one Skype/FaceTime/Snapchat/Facebook call to my overseas crew. Watch out team, you’ll be hearing a whole lot more from me!
What’s your New Year’s Resolution? Are you ditching it for concrete actions or habits? Share in the comments!