Happy New Year everyone! And welcome to this incredible feeling of having turned another page in your book of life. These first days of January feel like a next chance, another beginning, a blank chapter that wants to be written, and I love the sensation of that. So, if you are anything like me (and hundreds of millions of other people), you will likely have made New Year’s resolutions by now.
There’s a lot of beauty in this. It puts you in the driver’s seat and makes you take control of what’s happening. It creates this energy of hope and commitment. But there’s also a risk, one we all know far too well: The majority of resolutions don’t survive the first month. This can have a very frustrating negative effect on your psyche and might make you feel even more stuck in your situation. Like a victim to your cravings, your laziness or whatever word you use to label what seems to be holding you back.
Don’t do that to yourself! In my view, resolutions should only be made if you’re willing to create an environment that lets you stick to them. According to recent studies, having to constantly exert too much willpower against other forces in your environment might even be detrimental to your health. There’s a reason we can all relate so well to Professor Mischel’s famous Marshmallow experiment, where a row of poor children miserably fail to earn a second marshmallow by waiting 15 minutes staring at the first, simply because they can’t resist the temptation of eating it.
Last year, I wrote a blog post about the importance of creating the right circumstances for yourself to be able to follow through on your resolutions. I continue to believe that it is incredibly important to do anything in your power to create an environment and situation that is conducive to achieving your goals. But there’s more: What if your conscious and your subconscious are continuing to fight a war over the “if” and “how” of sticking to your resolutions? And how can you check if they are in alignment to enable you to follow through on them?
I certainly don’t have the ultimate answer to what neuroscientists are working so hard to uncover. But as it has worked well for me personally, I do invite you to take a moment today to go through these 3 questions to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success!
(1) Who do you want your future self to be? This is a crucial question to answer in order to determine if your New Year’s resolutions are in line with what you really are aiming for. It seems to be easy, but to really write it out and be specific is sometimes harder than you think.
A trick that might help you get in the mood is to imagine that you are a journalist who is writing about an interview with your future self. How would she introduce you to her audience in one or two paragraphs, and what does the main story picture look like?
What do you want to achieve? How do you want to be known? What are the values and stories that you want to portrait? Try to stay within the lines of what you can really see as a potential future. Write it out! And then check if and how your resolutions are aligning with that picture of yourself.
(2) What’s the real “why” behind your resolutions? Ever heard the saying “When your WHY is big enough, you will find your HOW?” It is so simple, yet so true! And although many people know it, most stop at the superficial level. The trick here is to keep asking, building what I call the “why-chain”, almost naggingly, like a four-year-old, and to write that chain out.
Let me give you an example: You want to lose 20 pounds. “Why?” So you can look great / run faster / be healthier. “Why?” So you will attract a partner / be successful in your job / feel more in control of things / beat your last record time. “Why?” So you make more money / be more respected / be more loved / be admired. “Why?” …
You see, this can go on for a long time, and it is usually (if you’re honest with yourself) very revealing. Digging deep on this one is a tough exercise to do, but it is absolutely necessary in order for it to be successful.
(3) Examine your beliefs! Writing out your “why-chain” will make you realize that you have internalized some beliefs that are sitting at the core of how you function! For example, do you believe that you need to be slim to be successful or loved? Or maybe you carry counter-beliefs that might inhibit you? For example, if you want to stop smoking, do you believe that you might miss out on fun moments or even lose friendships?
Most importantly, what beliefs do you hold about yourself in regards to your resolutions? Do you believe you can do it? Do you deserve to achieve them? And also, do you believe, from the bottom of your heart, that you still are a wonderful human being even without achieving these goals?
You don’t need to get into judgement around these beliefs, and getting rid of them would be a topic on its own. But take a moment to write down the ones that currently ring true to you, as it will help you understand what will be working with or against you while trying to stick your resolutions, especially in the weaker moments. If you want to read more, Dinorah Nieves wrote a great Huffington Post article around this.
And now? Do you feel like you have a better understanding of where you’re going? I hope you do. Because in the end, I really do believe that it is better to not make resolutions at all than to keep making ones that you break at the first possible chance. All that does is to form new beliefs around your inability to pull through with anything and might make matters even worse.
In the end, I couldn’t agree more with Richard Branson’s belief that happiness is the key to success, and if you keep working against what your inner self really wants you to be doing, you will end up spinning circles without moving into any direction at all.
So, do me a favor and take 15 minutes of your time tonight, bring a pen and a piece of paper, and answer these three questions for your resolutions. Preferably over a glass of Malbec. Unless that interferes with your resolutions, that is.