Today is the third of January. Our Christmas tree – though still adorned – has been relocated to the courtyard for the sake of space, the streets are still littered with stories of recent raucous, and around the world intentions are being formed toward betterment and change.
It’s a nice idea, and pleasantly hopeful – that a new year might bring us that much closer to our idealized selves. But according to even the most optimistic studies, such as this one by The Guardian, the success rate of New Year’s resolutions is a measly 22%. This is curious to me. As a whole, are we really so weak and undisciplined? Are we truly incapable of achieving self-implemented goals which are undoubtedly in our best interests? Or could it be that there is something dysfunctional about the way resolutions are set in the first place? Might our goals be lacking essentials elements necessary for true and lasting transformation?
Here are a few thoughts on ways to ensure that our resolutions aren’t as fleeting as the fireworks that excitedly announced their inception. I have chosen to focus on body image issues, as they are so popular among resolution setters.
How to Give Holding Power to Your New Year’s Resolutions
- Dig deeper, find the roots. Beneath the surface of most resolutions lie truths that take some digging to uncover. For example, if my resolution is to lose that last stubborn 10 pounds of baby weight, it might serve me to examine the underlying reasons for choosing such a goal in the first place. Am I holding tight to some arbitrary judgement of the way I should look after four pregnancies? Is weight even an indicator of beauty I even care to subscribe to? What is it that I really want? Upon asking myself these questions, my priorities are straightened up a bit and my resolution shifts. Rather than focus on my weight, I might resolve to love myself more. To look in the mirror with appreciation for the fact that my organs work, that I have all my limbs and a full set of teeth. I might resolve to take better care of myself – to resume my daily yoga practice because it makes me feel amazing, never mind the number on a scale. If our resolutions are void of depth, the parts of ourselves capable of profound change will not be stirred to action.
- Examine your methods. Just as important as rooting our resolutions are the methods by which we attempt to obtain them. Here’s the key…the plan we form in order to obtain our goals must be appealing as a lifestyle, not merely tolerable as a transition. When rooted in deprivation, excess or daily drudgery, it’s little wonder that we fail 78% of the time. If, on the other hand, our plans are doable and within reason given our current circumstances, leave us feeling better than we did before and replace old habits with more fulfilling ones, success is much more likely.
- “Treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to be.” Author and educator Dr. Wayne Dyer has been hugely influential to me, most recently inspiring the creation of this blog. Based on his advice, I started envisioning myself as a successful writer, rejecting thoughts of failure as they’ve come up (because failure is nothing more than a judgement) and even been so bold as to call myself a writer, never mind my limited training or job experience. Doing so has pushed me to be proactive now instead of waiting for some unknown future date to become what it is I intend to be. Thought of in this way, I already have what I want and my energy can be channeled toward writing as opposed to waiting or wanting. Seems to me, this same concept could be applied to most any goal or resolution.
- Honor the process as much as the outcome. The very nature of goal setting in and of itself can be harmful if not kept in perspective. Though intentions and goals are important, equally important is the time it takes to reach them. One moment of life is no less amazing or valuable than another. Anytime we become overly focused on the future, we detract from the richness that can be found only in the present.
- Recognize societal bullshit. It is entirely possible that you have been unable to meet previous goals because they were based on one or more of the lies fed to us about what is important. Take the body image issue. Society pushes all kinds of sick and twisted messages about what our bodies are supposed to look like. We then run ourselves crazy trying to achieve impossible and imaginary standards. If instead, we focus on resolving to love ourselves, be real and be grateful, all of a sudden wrinkles are nothing more than evidence of smiles and sunshiny days and stretch marks faded reminders that our favorite people on the planet once grew inside our bodies. (Society’s encouragement that such realities be hidden, pretended away or surgically removed is all kinds of unhealthy and counterproductive.) Energy wasted on meaningless resolutions bound for failure might be better spent unearthing personal truths buried deep beneath layers of cultural dishonesty.
My resolutions for 2012? I have three. One: To be more present, especially with my kids. Two: To practice daily yoga, even if some days allow for no more than ten minutes, and Three: To spend one day a week with the Maya women of Nichmantic – the subject of which I can barely contain my excitement for and will share with you in my next post. Happy New Year, my friends! It’s going to be amazing. I can feel it all around me.