I am a sap for New Year's resolutions - all it takes is one viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life" or opening a brand new calendar to get me thinking about my life and what I hope the new year will bring. The last few years I've taken a slightly different approach which has yielded some surprising results. I was already familiar with creating S.M.A.R.T. goals; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely, but in addition I've started asking myself these three questions. So now I challenge you to ask yourself these three questions for each potential New Year's resolution too:
1.Where's the motivation coming from; internally or externally?
When our resolutions stem from ideas or beliefs that we "should" be doing this or "ought" to be doing that, most likely our motivation is coming from somewhere outside ourselves. Other people in our life that may be pushing us to change may mean well, and likewise we may mean well when we try to make changes for other people in our life, but it's not the same as when we want the change for ourselves. Unless it's life threatening, I suggest giving yourself permission to hold off on this New Year's resolution until you want the change for yourself. There's no need to add feelings of guilt or shame to the mix when we're not making progress on a resolution we didn't truly want to make in the first place.
2. What's the end goal of your New Year's resolution?
Here's an example: Are you planning to exercise and diet because you love making healthy choices and exercise brings you joy, or are you making these changes so you'll feel better about yourself, win the approval of others or something similar? The former - the resolution fits directly with the end goal - joy and love of a healthy life. In the latter, the resolution depends on some middle work, or aspects we may not have control over to reach the end goal. I say focus more directly on the end goal. As in the latter example - love yourself and accept yourself exactly as you are and surround yourself with supportive people that love and accept you exactly as you are. This year let's not endorse New Year's resolutions that make us hustle for our sense of worthiness and belonging.
3. How does your New Year's resolution fit with your values?
I talk with my clients on a regular basis about their values and how they actively practice them. I believe we are healthier, happier, and make better choices when we have a clear sense of our personal values and they are reflected in our everyday behaviors. Take some time to identify your values and try setting your New Year's resolutions around your top three. For example, if one of your values is family, how might that look on a daily basis; fewer late night work hours, dinner together, screen-free quality time together?
Best of luck to everyone on our New Year's resolutions! Remember too, to be kind to yourself throughout this process. Change can be hard, even when it's good for us, and even when we want it. If you like this post, please share it. I am eager to hear from folks who try the challenge and the results that come from it.