How is it going so far with your new year’s resolutions? If it’s going great this year just as in years past, excellent. You may wish to ignore this post.
If, however, you have fallen off the wagon already or if that’s your pattern, read on. If you manage to keep resolutions up but only via white-knuckling or self-flagellation, read on. And if you are already building resentment toward your commitments or feeling resistance creep up, this is for you.
The top American New Year’s resolutions fall into the following categories:
- spend more time with friends and family, spend less time at work
- reduce stress/enjoy life more
- get out of debt or save or make x amount of money
- lose x amount of weight, get fit in x way
- quit smoking/drinking/other habit
- learn x new subject/skill
- help others/volunteer
So, let’s say your specific list looks something like this:
- Stay in better touch with family members and relatives, call at least once a week
- Get up early and exercise four times per week
- Learn Italian language and cooking
- Quit smoking
- Spend more time outdoors and reading fiction and less time on email on work related tasks
- Begin saving $1000 a month
- Train for a triathalon
- Take trip to New Zealand
Chances are, your list is not feeling as inspiring as it was to you on January 1st. It’s starting to feel kind of flat, kind of constraining, or kind of intimidating.
Here is what I recommend. For each resolution on your list, take out a sheet of paper and create a four column chart. Write your resolution in the first column, giving each resolution its own page.
Ask yourself: When I wrote this resolution, what feeling or state of being did I think would arise from doing this thing? What was my vision of who I would be if I achieved it? Write that in the second column.
Here’s what our full list looks like with the feeling states filled in:
|Original Resolution||Feeling State|
|Call family members and relatives at least once a week||I feel connected and close to my family. I feel the peace of knowing I’m a responsible family member.|
|Exercise x times per week||I feel energized, strong and balanced. I feel comfortable in my body. I feel the peace of knowing I’m taking care of my health.|
|Learn Italian language and cooking||I experience beauty and novelty in my daily life. I feel the excitement of learning something new. I feel like I’m always growing, and not stagnating.|
|Quit smoking||I feel more energy and clarity. I have the peace of knowing I am doing everything I can to take care of my health. I feel free of addiction.|
|Spend more time outdoors and less time on email on work related tasks||I feel aware of and in harmony with nature. I feel peaceful. I’m reminded I’m just one of many kinds of living creature.|
|Begin saving $1000 a month||I feel financially responsible and secure.|
|Train for a triathalon||I’ve proved to myself that I am a brave, hard-working person who can overcome challenges.|
|Take trip to New Zealand||My life has a sense of adventure. Every year offers something new. This aren’t routine or boring. I have something exciting to share about my life with everyone I meet.|
Take time to consider these questions for each item on your list. Dig beneath the superficial layers. For example, when you consider “train for triathalon,” your first thought might be, “I wanted to know I could run x miles.” That’s still too specific. Your soul’s dream, your heart’s desire was not to know you could run x miles. Go one level underneath, “I wanted to know I could accomplish a great feat if I set my mind to it.” Or “I wanted to feel strength and power.”
If you cannot find a dream of your heart or soul underneath the specific goal, take it off the list. It’s a “should” goal coming from your mind/ego/inner critic. It is not a resonant goal coming from you. Its not important, and your commitment to it won’t last anyway.
Read each column all the way down, separately. Read all your original resolutions and then read all your feeling state goals. Which list makes you feel more relaxed and open, safe and whole? More excited and energized? That list is the one you want to live with and tweak and let inspire and guide you this year. Your feeling state list is your roadmap. This is what you truly want to experience this year.
Now, and just for now, put aside your thoughts about your original resolutions. Take your feeling state list and for each item on the list, brainstorm 10 other things (besides your resolution) that you could do to achieve the feeling state. Put down thoughts quickly as they come to you, without evaluating their feasibility or merit. Include actions but also attitudes that would allow you to achieve the feeling state. Write these down in column three.Then, in column four, write five things you can do today to achieve that feeling state.
Here are a couple of examples:
|Original Resolution||Feeling State||Other pathways to feeling state||5 things I can do today to achieve feeling state
|Call family members and relatives at least once a week||I feel connected and close to my family. I feel the peace of knowing I’m a responsible family member.||Keep family pictures nearby
Set regular phone dates with family
Start brainstorming about family vacation
Be a better listener when I’m talking to them, slow down for the conversations
Spend more unstructured time together
Acknowledge anniversaries, graduations, and other special dates
Let go of the little things that annoy me about them
|Go play around with my kids downstairs. Just be present with them.
Call my parents and be sure to tell them I love them.
Send an email to begin planning a special birthday celebration for my sister.
Put important family dates into my calendar
While doing stuff around the house today, think about some of my favorite things about my family
|Exercise four times per week||I am energized, strong and balanced. I feel comfortable in my body. I feel the peace of knowing I’m taking care of my health.||Stop comparing my body to others’ and looking at fashion magazines
Appreciate the progress that I make in getting fit
Catch up on my regular doctors appointments
Be active whenever I can through the day
|Eat healthfully and mindfully
Make time to exercise
Take a few five minute stretch breaks at work
Drink water through the day
Get eight hours sleep
|Take trip to New Zealand||My life has a sense of adventure. Every year offers something new, its not routine or boring. I have something exciting to share about my life with everyone I meet.||Try some sports I have never played before.
Be more courageous in daring in how honest I am with people in my lives.
Expose myself to different cultures through food, film, music and neighborhoods right here in my city.
Take more risks everyday.
|Call Laura and tell the truth about how I’m feeling, even though I’m petrified
Go to the bookstore and pick up some novels that will connect me to a different part of the world
Go for a long run and really push myself
Review column three and see what stands out to you as the most as resonant, exciting ways to experience the feeling states you aspire to. Circle all those you want and are ready to put into action in January. Keep the others for a February check-in.
Begin creating the plan to do these things, including getting appropriate support and setting up life to make it easy to do these things.
Then turn to column four, where you wrote at least five things you can do today to get to each feeling state you desire. Pick a couple for each resolution. Go play, go do them! Refer to this “today” list on a regular basis to get reminders of the many ways you can have it all right now.
You have everything you need for 2009 in you, and its all there right now.