The New Year is almost here, and, with it, many people experience a new and sometimes strange sense of anxiety that stems from one source: The need to create New Year’s resolutions. In the days following New Year’s, it will seem like every social media post is about resolutions. Some about setting them, others about breaking them. The fact is that fewer than 10% of people who make them keep them. I don’t think you should ever set them again. Here’s a handful of reasons why:
1. Resolutions Can Make It Harder to Change
Believe it or not, resolutions can become so high-pressure that they can actually cause us to fail at ever instating the change we hoped to integrate into our lives. Sometimes, even if we succeed at keeping our resolution, the effort involved made us so miserable that we no longer gain any benefit from the resolution anyway. What’s better than a resolution is a commitment to one or multiple intentions, and a reasonable pathway to the integration of the new behavior. Intentions are so much more powerful than resolutions. Intentions are not only at the root of every action we take, but they are also so much easier to get back to, should we stray away from them temporarily.
2. Quality Can Outperform Quantity
New Year’s resolutions can often seem to be all about numbers. You make them at the end of a calendar year, and they’re devoted to that year mentally. In truth, our minds don’t measure life in calendar years. New Year’s resolutions can get hung up on timing and less about the overall, big-picture, long-term benefit of our well-being. Focusing on goals that are qualitative and take your personal life into consideration are more likely to contribute to success. After all, if our minds don’t follow calendars perfectly, why should the big goals in our life?
3. Lists Are Great for Learning but Bad for Motivation
While making a list of ideas or concepts is a great way to summarize information, lists can actually be incredibly de-motivating. With a list of difficult tasks or resolutions to undertake, we’re constantly reminded of our failures instead of our successes. With the human mind being so sensitive to negatives, this means that lists like this tend to make us feel negatively and focus on failure, how many tasks are left, or how people will perceive our list instead of the progress we’ve made.
Instead, I urge you to focus on progress. If you’re going to make a list, make it out of your successes. Keeping track of your progress, even with simple things like a gift to yourself or extra relaxation time, is so much more motivating!
4. Resolutions Aren’t Kind
Resolutions are built under the idea that we can pressure ourselves into doing things we don’t want to do, either socially, mentally, or emotionally. We reinforce the notion that the harder we are on ourselves, the happier we will become. The reality is that pressure rarely works in making us more happy, or even in achieving our goals. In fact, putting increased pressure on ourselves can often result in anger towards ourselves, which is the opposite of progress towards our goals. Kindness towards the self is much more likely to result in lasting personal change, and it feels better, too! Think about it like this: Would you like being friends with someone who was always beating you up? No way! Instead, be kind to yourself. Rather than beating yourself up, encourage yourself.
5. Nuance Is Key
Resolutions oversimplify our goals into quick, easy-to-jot-down bullet points. While there is a use for organizing our thoughts simply, major life change needs to be nuanced! A resolution makes large tasks seem deceptively small, leading us to feel disappointment towards ourselves when the task turns out to be too difficult. Disappointment is a surefire way to make us more likely to give up. Instead, take in the details and the realistic challenges of life and don’t shout at yourself if some challenges arise. Roll with them and reconnect to your intention.
Water the flowers you want to grow
Give your mind the space it needs to make the changes you so desire by welcoming the qualities of life you'd would like to cultivate in your life, rather than make an endless list of goals, that may or may not become reality - qualities you already possess but may have forgotten, like kindness, connecting authentically with others, being more patient or generous, or simply being more present and appreciative of life, no matter what it throws at you.
This year, instead of making resolutions, commit to a long-term path of intentions that focus on HOW you want to live your life, rather than WHAT you to achieve. Be kind to yourself, sit, meditate, connect to your intention and begin again at any moment. Happy 2019! #createspacewithin