The Secret to Creating New Year’s Resolutions that Last Longer than A Diet
New Year’s Resolutions are a fancy way of committing to change. Unfortunately, resolutions are a lot like diets. They are well-intended, often very prescribed or specific, and they are treated as a challenge, or a task to be accomplished. Both diets and resolutions are pursued with the hope of an overall positive outcome or to reach a particular goal. Unfortunately, resolutions, like diets, are usually not sustainable. Don’t fret, if you are a resolution-maker, I have a four-step process to help you transform your resolutions into meaningful and lasting strategies for long-lasting change.
Resolutions are designed to move you toward an improved feeling or life experience. More specifically, they are intended to shift the way you FEEL about yourself and your life experiences. Resolutions are the roadmap you create to move you toward what it is you want. The biggest problem with the most common resolutions is that they are not focused on how we wish to feel, they are concentrated on what we think we need to do. Common resolutions focus on tasks like, stop smoking, save money, and exercise. For a resolution to be effective, it must focus on the way we wish to feel rather than target the things we do.
New Year’s Resolutions are designed to scratch an itch. To be effective, you must first identify what itches. Resolutions are an effort to change something with the belief that it will lead to feeling a certain way. We decide, for example, if I lose weight, I will feel better. What “better” means to one person, however, is not the same as what “better” means to another person. If what is making you feel worse is related to stress at work or in your relationship, there are not enough carrots in the world that you can eat to make your relationship better or your work less stressful. Therefore, the resolution to lose weight may not actually be the best roadmap to reach the end goal of “feeling better.”
The resolution “to exercise” is like a scratch. The goal is to make resolutions that address the itch, not the scratch. Saving money is another scratch. It’s a strategy — a how-to — that we think will lead to feeling a certain way when we achieve this goal. Sometimes the goal to exercise is not even about how we feel about ourselves, it’s about how we think others feel about us, our body, and how we look. (See how this gets complicated)? Examples of different end goals or ways of feeling, that people want to experience through exercise may include: feel healthier and more energized, feel more powerful /physically stronger, feel sexier, feel more comfortable in your clothes, feel more desirable, feel good enough, feel more likable and feel better about yourself.
The secret to sustainable New Year’s Resolutions is in your awareness of and connection to how you wish to feel. If your goal is to feel healthier and more energized, what happens if you exercise every day for three months and still don’t feel more energized, or healthier? (Answer: you will stop exercising!) If, for example, you have trouble setting boundaries with others and you overextend yourself or surround yourself with people who are emotionally draining, you may not achieve your desired end goal of feeling more energized and healthier by merely exercising. There is no amount of exercise that will keep others from draining you. You may also need to learn to say “no,” to pay attention to what is energizing you and what is draining you, develop better sleep patterns, and get exercise. This is why most Resolutions are short-sighted and may miss the mark if they are focused on what we do instead of how we wish to feel.
A Four-Step Formula to Creating More Effective New Year’s Resolutions
⦿ STEP 1: Identify goals that target the specific feeling you wish to experience.
Rather than making your goal specific to diet changes and weight loss (your preconceived notion about how to feel more energized), create a more flexible resolution that can grow and change with you. Take any of your New Year’s Resolutions and ask yourself: “How do I think I will feel by accomplishing this?” If you have not created resolutions yet, simply ask yourself, “How do I wish to feel?”
To give you an example of how to build a resolution, we will use the goal of experiencing more energy. In this example, the focus of the resolution will be to feel more energized.
⦿ STEP 2: Notice what is already present, as well as that which adds to and takes away from the focus-feeling/end goal.
For your own resolution-making, ask yourself, “When do I feel <desired feeling>, and when do I feel <undesired feeling>?” This expands the developing New Year’s Resolutions to now include: to notice what increases my energy and what drains my energy.
⦿ STEP 3: Identify an action to respond to what you notice
Consider this question, “How can I experience more <desired feeling>?”in our example of feeling more energized, now that we have included noticing what expands our energy and what diminishes our energy, it makes sense to add an action step to do more of what expands our energy and less of what decreases our energy. Here is one way to say that: notice and lean into that which increase my energy and I notice and lean away from that which drains my energy. This is flexible and allows us to respond to how we are feeling in many different situations, which is the goal of a sustainable New Year’s Resolutions.
⦿ STEP 4: Describe your intention as if it is already a part of how you think and behave.
Creating present-tense New Year’s Resolutions treats your resolution as a reality that is happening right now rather than a target to reach. The final resolution becomes:“I notice and lean into that which increases my energy, and I notice and lean away from that which drains my energy.”
If you want to take steps to feel better in the New Year, treat your resolutions like a journey, not a destination. Pay attention to the ride and course correct as needed along the way. Cheers to a wonderful journey in the coming year!
❤️ Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.is an expert lesbian relationship coach (www.lesbiancouples.coach) with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes/Google play. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those here.