Firstly, I work hard every day. If I write resolutions it is like saying I haven’t done enough this year to make me proud. That’s too far from the truth to be ok with me.
I find the psychology behind it interesting too. It is the same as choosing a date to quit smoking. If you don’t want it bad enough right now you probably won’t want it bad enough later on. If you need to have “just one more Big Mac meal, upsized” before you start eating healthy, you are setting yourself up for failure straight off the blocks.
Some people will say that writing a resolution is the first step to achieving a goal, because after all “if you haven’t dreamt it you won’t achieve it”. I use meditation for this instead. I spend some time visualising my goal and sitting with the feeling that comes when I see myself achieving the goal. When I’m unsure of something, I will visualise myself sitting comfortably in a grass clearing surrounded by jungle, waiting in stillness until the answer makes its way into the clearing with me.
Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I acknowledge and do “resolutions” of sorts every day.
At the end of every day I don’t count my achievements (of which I am immensely proud by the way). I rate on a little scale just how much I was the person I want to be that day. I make resolutions for the next day based on my values. Who I want to be in the world, not what. So if I notice that I wasn’t very kind or fun that day I will acknowledge this gently with forgiveness but with resolve to do those things better the next day.
This technique powerfully massages the subconscious. By allowing the mind to gently acknowledge your values you will be more likely to respond automatically using those values in the near future – much of our actions are mindless responses shaped by our subconscious.
If your subconscious is overwhelmed by a focus on negative memories from your day it will be more likely to react to situations in survival mode – fight or run. The brain reminds us of negative memories to protect us from danger in the future. It is an important evolutionary mechanism but in the modern world it can make us reactive and depressive. Using a Gratitude Ritual places the positives back into your mind, reducing your stress and therefore reducing your reactivity.
If your subconscious mind has been reminded of the person you want to be (kind, generous, fun, hard-working?) it is more likely to guide your automatic actions in this way.
Imagine that you had reminded yourself to be kind. The next day your friend forgot a coffee date, left you sitting at the coffee house alone. Instead of sending her a nasty text to say she’d wasted your precious time, you order a ginger and lemon grass tea and spend thirty blissful minutes in your own silence watching the world flit around you. You notice quirky things that you wouldn’t have seen if you’d been deep in conversation with your friend.
That night you note in your Gratitude Journal that you were thankful for the time alone, you very rarely get time with yourself. You go to sleep satisfied and peaceful instead of fuming about your unreliable friend (not ruminating and stressing about how to make sure she knows just how much she pissed you off – this impacts your sleep not hers).
The next day you wake to a text:
“I’m so sorry. I’ve just remembered our coffee date. Our puppy got hit by a car and I totally got caught up in it all. He’s ok now, bringing him home from the vet later today. Can we catch up soon?”
Now imagine that you’d decided one of your values is self-love. You rate your self-love at night, helping to push it into your subconscious. In the morning you sit in lotus pose, the early sun sparkling on your closed eyelids. You breathe deeply into your belly until your shoulders drop away from your ears and all your limbs feel heavy. You acknowledge what values you will focus on that day. Self-love.
Later that day you are faced with a choice – take your packed lunch to the park across the road from work and sit in the sun while you eat a salad overflowing with your favourite vegetables and fruit OR accept an offer from your colleague to have a quick coffee at the cafeteria and run through some paperwork while you drink the life-sucking micronutrient-depleted glug, the BPA leeching into your liquid lunch as you chug it down. You may have time to grab some hot chips and wolf them down too, but only if they are already cooked – this means they may have been sitting there for some time but you don’t care because salty, soggy chips always call your name around lunchtime.
You’ve heard the podcast by That Paleo Show about how caffeine doesn’t boost your energy, it only reduces your threshold so you think you need it just to function like a normal human does if they’ve never introduced coffee in the first place. But the urge to feel like “part of the corporate crowd” and to be taken seriously tends to force a polystyrene cup into your hand most days.
You’ve read about the impact of eating too quickly, how it messes up your digestion, impacts your weight, increases your stress. You’ve seen the science behind the devastating impacts of toxic vegetable oils and you know that the cafeteria cooks their chips in canola oil. But it’s quick and easy and it tastes great. The heart attack is a distant worry.
Last night though, you made a self-love pledge. You prepared your salad so it was an easy choice the next day and you read an article about getting enough daily vitamin D from the sun to facilitate good sleep each night.
With not a second of guilt and not a second of indulging the urge for fast food, you say to your colleague “I’ve already got my lunch packed and I hate to see it go to waste. Feel free to join me in the park but it is a work-free zone, I find I am a hundred percent more productive after a brain break”. That’s your self-love talking.
Compare that to a resolution to eat healthy. New Year’s Day arrives and you’re feeling a bit hung. Ok so you’re a lot hung. You need something greasy and easy so you tell yourself that you’ll start tomorrow. If it is always about a start date and not about self-love this pattern will continue and you’ll never truly prioritize your goal. If you do stick to it under a feeling of obligation because you declared your resolutions, you’ll do so under immense stress and constriction – that is not a sustainable way to achieve something.
I would love you to live more mindfully rather than automatically but shaping your subconscious is a great start. It’s like feeding a vegetable garden with compost – it is only stuff that has come out of your garden to begin with but if you don’t keep piling your vegetable scraps on top to nourish the new growth, the weeds will grow through and the veggies will suffocate. The innate values that make up your soul are within you already, but the negative focus that we are wired to take each day breeds more and more negativity, until you are over-run with weeds.
I have a little journal with my values and my Seven Little Wonders – feel free to download it and modify it with your list of important values, print it and then use the heck out of it! Please start your own Daily Gratitude and Resolution Ritual in place of New Year’s resolutions.
I will leave you with this thought…how many of your past resolutions have been achieved in previous New Years?