It’s a new year! The time when many of us think – or at least talk – about making some new year’s resolutions. But, why do we think we’re any more likely to resolve to do something new, something different, on January 1, rather than, say, June 29?
A new year’s resolution is a declaration of intent to change. To change something: something about ourselves, our lives, our circumstances…to be different, to be better, to be less of something we don’t like and more of something we aspire to be. Whatever the resolution, the common starting place is always the same: change. But since most of us tend to resist change, how can we be more successful at actually putting those new year’s resolutions into practice?
If you start by taking a good, long look in the proverbial mirror (gulp), you need to ask yourself: why? Why do you want to lose 5 kilos, start going to the gym, spend less time on screens, eat better, get more sleep…the list goes on. The answers might seem obvious, but the important thing is not to give what you perceive to be the “right” answer, e.g., I want to start going to the gym because I should lose weight and that will make me healthier, but rather, the scary-truth answer: because I think I’ll be a happier person.
If we conclude that discontentment leads to a desire to change, and if we then hypothesize that realized change will equal happiness, can we better consider what we want to change? Why? And what we’re actually willing to do about it, if anything? Let’s take job dissatisfaction as an example. Lucky are the ones who feel fulfilled and satisfied with not only their chosen field, but with the real work they do each day, and the circumstances in which they do that work. However, for many people, there are varying degrees, from minor to major, of job dissatisfaction and frustration, leading them to seriously consider changing companies/agencies/firms/schools, etc., and sometimes changing their chosen field altogether. This discontentment which leads to a desire to change is where you can easily get stuck in the (new year’s) resolution loop, i.e., making the same declaration time after time, without an examined look at what you are willing to sacrifice and withstand, in order to ultimately reach that place of increased happiness.
The problem with thinking that changing something you don’t like will quickly lead to a happier, better you is that a key part of the equation is missing: the part which requires discomfort, upset, sacrifice and uncertainty. For example, you want to spend less time on your phone/iPad/laptop, to be more present, to be more connected to the actual people in front of you, to sleep better, but are you willing to police your use, set limits and stick to them, e.g., turn all screens off one hour before bed? Can you decide to go on Instagram, FaceBook, etc. only one time per day?
As you think about what new year’s resolutions you might make as you begin 2017, start by thinking not about where you want to end up, but about the journey you’re willing to take. Whether that means getting up earlier each morning (to start going to the gym), giving up French fries (to lose those 5 kilos), carving out time each week (for that job search) or switching off your phone at 9 pm (!), mentally “try on” the most uncomfortable aspect of the journey. And then, take action.
And, remember that making big declarations, even just to ourselves, can put too much pressure on us and can lead us to throw in the towel early, feeling like the goal is just too far out of reach. Starting small is a great way to go, no matter what the goal for change. So, when making resolutions, make room for the discomfort factor and give yourself big credit for any step – big or small – toward change for the better.
Article by Karen Rigatti
Certified Professional Counselor