The other day, I was interviewed by a local magazine about New Year’s resolutions. The writer asked me questions about why people make them and why it is that so many people “fail” when it comes to keeping them.
I had a few things to say about this.
First of all, I’m behind anyone who initiates positive change or transformation (call it a resolution, intention, a goal or a vision — whatever you want), and here’s what I really want you to know if you’ve decided it’s time to make some changes in your life:
There is no failure.
Some people will argue with me on that and lump me into the part of our culture that hands out 9th place trophies and applauds effort versus completion.
What if it’s both, though?
What if you saw your journey as both effort and completion (or instead of completion, you meet a goal and then set the next one, and the next one, and the next one)?
Here’s what I told the writer that the “mind fuck” (I said he could quote me on that — we’ll see what happens) is when it comes to New Year’s resolutions: It’s that all-or-nothing thinking that sweeps us into action at the beginning of something, but can also poison our efforts when we “fail.”
I think people slide away from their resolutions because circumstances occur or choices are made that they deem “failures,” and so they throw in the towel — either all at once or day by day. Stuff like:
- they eat ice cream…or a pint of it, in one sitting
- they have to travel for work and miss a week of going to the gym / working out
- they feel better, but the number on the scale isn’t moving as quickly as they want — or at all
- they are hungry for motivation or inspiration and don’t think they conjure it up
- they try something new that freaks their mind or their bodies out and immediately react by telling themselves they’re “not cut out for it” or that “it’s too hard” — and stop completely
So what can I offer you to help you stay plugged into your resolutions besides giving you a pat on the back and saying “enjoy the journey”?
I want you to decide whether the resolution you’re making is a promise to yourself or a commitment.
I read (and recommend) a great book once that talked about this in a way that made me light up like a Christmas tree. That’s because I recognized the truth in it.
There’s a lot of outstanding information in Commit To Win by Heidi Reeder, Ph.D., but this rang my bell:
“Remember, a promise is the potential start of something, while a commitment is an attachment to a goal that shows up in action. Commitment is actually the outcome of everyday mental decisions and actions.”
I made a promise to my husband on our wedding day to stay with him during the good and bad; sickness and good health.
That 17 year old promise is now a commitment because I make everyday mental decisions and take actions to live it out. I show up. Even when it’s boring. For sure when it’s fun. When it’s an ordinary day. Or an extraordinary one.
I’m all-in; even when (especially when) I tell myself I’m not sure if I can do it.
It’s a process — there’s ebb and flow with commitment. You have to develop it and then you have to sustain it.
You have to decide if you’re ready to flip the switch from being sick and tired, stuck, bored, miserable or blah to building a commitment out of your promises to yourself.
Can you be open to the possibility that the excitement and pride you feel about changing your life can outweigh your fears of screwing up (a.k.a. being human)?
When I transformed my life five years ago, it was a process and I was deeply committed to that process. To be committed, I think you need to have clarity around what your goals are or you lose direction and focus.
This is what I knew in 2011:
- I wanted to lose weight (25 lbs. — ended up being closer to 40) and feel better physically in my body and emotionally about my body.
- It wasn’t just about the weight; I wanted to show up for my life differently. I wanted to feel passionate, stop caring so much about what people thought about me and let go of my quest for constant perfection (which caused me a lot of anxiety and sometimes depression).
I had clarity and I was committed.
What made it different from any other time I resolved that I was going to lose weight or get excited about my life?
There were lots of factors that were crucial in the growth of my commitment, and later this week, I will share those with you.
Some of those factors involve your cognitive processes. Some are connected to your environment. Some are connected to the people you let into your life. And what about the media / technology you allow into your life? That plays a part, too.
Whether your resolution — your commitment — is to lose weight or something else important to your well-being, I want to support you in that.
This is January. A beginning. A promise.
Decide that the woman you want to become is a commitment you are making.
Decide that you’ll embrace every bit of it — the celebrations, the “failures,” the ho-hum parts and the ones that take your breath away.