Why your New Year’s Resolutions Already Aren’t Working
Every year around New Year’s time when our post-holiday self loathing starts to set in, we all turn to resolutions to get us “back on track.”
Even worse is the “new year, new you” jargon. Of course, a clean slate opens up a world of opportunity, but if we went forth into the new year without the past year’s and cumulative years’ experiences to inform our decisions then life would be a bunch of emotionally immature, adult infantiles walking around deciding the fate of the world. Terrifying. Sure, start fresh, kick off the dust, but for the love of God don’t start from square one. You’ve already learned so much.
New Year’s resolutions always kind of make me roll my eyes. I know I sound blasphemous as a personal trainer, nutritionist and health coach condemning people for creating goals, but I promise you I’m not. In fact, I encourage and help clients create and meet these goals every day. Goals are part of a productive life and I applaud them. My real beef is with New Year’s resolutions specifically–they imply that only once in all 365 days should you resolve to do things of meaning with your life. Even worse about typical New Year’s resolutions is that they usually fall short because they’re a reductive list that’s made with no follow through and then quickly forgotten.
And if you’re already not eating as healthy as you planned or skipped a few workouts this week or haven’t saved your money like you wished, this year I dare you to look at the resolutions you made a week ago and throw them out. Instead, I challenge you to live every day more mindfully. Easier said than done, I know, but when you live mindfully and go into each day with an intention or mini goal in mind, you’re much more likely to do it. And it’s with each one of these mindful days that you become more and more aware of your self, your surroundings, your relationships, your circumstances.
It’s only with this greater mindfulness that you’ll be able to let those big goals, those things that you resolve to do, come out and see the light of day. I bet after living mindfully for a while you’ll bring out your big goals, what would’ve been your “resolutions” and notice that you’re already on the way to achieving them. All because you noticed your intuition, you allowed yourself to listen to it and therefore you knew what you needed.
How do we practice mindfulness every day? There are a million ways to be mindful and a million ways to start, but setting an intention is a good way to start. (Otherwise, you’ll be walking around all day wondering if you’re being mindful or not.) Wake up in the morning, take a few deep breaths and think of something that you want for yourself that day. “Show gratitude for the mundane.” “Find peace in chaos.” See if you can keep your intention present in your mind and you’ll surprise yourself that by the end of the day it’s something you can accomplish on autopilot. Before you go to bed, examine your intention. How did it affect your day and your actions?
If you’re still keen on those resolutions, make your intentions about those. “Give energy to my work.” If you weren’t able to do that in your day and it felt like a struggle, here’s where the “why” and the further mindfulness comes in. Are you eating in a way that hinders rather than helps your energy? Are you in a job that enlivens you?
And let’s remember what Socrates said about the “unexamined life (except once a year) is not worth living.” Okay, I added that parenthetical part, but you get what I’m saying. Why just check in once a year when we can adjust accordingly as we go? Those little adjustments can mean more living.
So change your resolutions to mindfulness. Hear what your body is telling you and turn that information into action. That’s when your goals can come into play–when you know what you need. And if you don’t know what you need just yet, keep listening.