Every January, millions of Americans set New Year's resolutions and, within 60 days, most have already broken them. Research shows that the vast majority of people do not successfully achieve their New Year's resolutions despite continuing to make them year after year. The bottom line - New Year's resolutions don't work. Here's why . . .
First, resolutions are often based on what we think we should be doing, not necessarily what we want. If our resolutions are not deeply rooted in what we really want, we have a hard time sticking to them. For example, year after year, people start the New Year saying, "I should lose 10 pounds." Or, "I should go to the gym regularly." Or, "I should learn to meditate." These are all great means of accomplishing an end, but ask yourself instead, "What is that end?" Perhaps it is, "I want to feel better about myself." Or, "I want to be healthier." Or, "I want to worry less." Sadly, when we fail to stick to our New Year's resolutions, we actually feel worse about ourselves, worry even more, and are farther from our true goals of feeling happier and fulfilled.
Second, our resolutions are goal-oriented with our happiness dependent upon some future accomplishment. Inherent in this goal mindset is that we are not enough right now, that we cannot be happy right now unless or until we have achieved these goals, or that something needs to happen before we can feel fulfilled. We think that the harder we are on ourselves, the more motivated we will be to change. We believe that it is only when we make these changes or accomplish those goals that we can love ourselves fully and be truly happy. This leaves our happiness always one step out of reach. Think about how much of our lives we end up wasting being unhappy with some aspect of our lives or ourselves. As a result, we wait and wait and wait to truly embrace all that we are because we have not yet achieved some goal. Or, once we have achieved a set goal, we find this happiness only temporary and we are quickly on to our next goal in the pursuit of happiness, and the cycle continues.
What to do instead . . . Set Intentions
This year, try starting the New Year without resolutions and instead set intentions.
Ask yourself these questions: (Really take some time to think about them and write down your answers.)
What do I really want to experience in 2019?
What are my core values?
What is most important to me?
You may find the answers are . . . I want to be happy. I want to be peaceful. I want to find more time to spend with the people I love. I want to spend more time outside in nature. I want to spend more time helping others. I want to worry less. I want to read more books. I want to love myself fully. It does not matter what your intentions are! Don't judge them. Be aware of the shoulds or what you think other people want you to do or to be. Just look deeply into your heart at what you really want and what will make you happy. Then, step back, take a good look at your answers, set those as your intentions for 2019, and align your actions with those intentions every day. For example, if you want to truly feel healthy and love your body (instead of wanting to lose 15 pounds), maybe you go for a long walk instead of agonizing over an unenjoyable workout at the gym that is hard to stick to because you hate doing it. Maybe you eat delicious and nutritious foods that nourish and energize your body instead of depriving yourself of the joy of eating what you like because you are on some restrictive fad diet to lose weight quickly. Perhaps you find 5 minutes to sit quietly and breathe as a way to calm and balance your nervous system, rather than forcing yourself to follow a meditation regimen that simply does not work for your schedule. If you stick to your intentions and find different ways each day to make those a reality, you will find them much easier to accomplish. In fact, they are actually available right now!
This year, don't hold back love and happiness until some distant goal is met. Make this year different and start out full of love and appreciation for all that you are and all that you have right now. Allow yourself to feel joy now. Use that love as the motivator to nurture yourself in the New Year and share all that boundless goodness with those around you.
As one of my wonderful teachers explains, in the New Year we often resolve to change or fix things. This has an air of contraction and negativity in it. You can feel it in your body on a very basic level. The underlying message is I am not enough. But what if you resolve instead to allow things? How does it feel if you tell yourself you don't have to resolve (fix, change) anything this year? Does that allow you to simply "be" a little bit more? Is there a whisper of freedom in that? Release the burden of resolution. Put it down. Feel the openness and possibility in that!