I know some of you reading this are ready with your pen and paper, eager to capture your New Year's resolutions for 2018.
And I know that some of you might feel a bit more cynical about resolutions.
I thought that this morning I would share my take on resolutions.
First, it's important to know that I think of myself as someone who always seeks the middle path. I can always see both sides of an issue and I really like to get information from different perspectives to form my own opinion of something. As such, I'm not a black/white either/or type of person. As one of my yoga teachers would say, I'm more of a both/and. I think that some of the concerns or frustrations that people have with resolutions (e.g. that they don't stick, that they're just for show) are valid. I also think that the start of a new year has a great energy to it that makes self-reflection particularly powerful. Here are some of my thoughts on resolutions. I hope they help you decide how you want to invest your energy in 2018.
1. Goals work
I believe in magic and mysticism. I also love science and research. I believe the two can coexist. Yes, I do feel that there is an energy that pulses on the first day of the year. I can feel it in my body and it's something I want to harness. I also know that there's a TON of research that has proven that goal-setting works.
This is one of the best books that I read in 2017. It shares copious amount of research showing that people who set goals are happier and more satisfied. When I hear people say that they don't make resolutions because they never work, that seems like self-defeating, circular reasoning to me. Set goals. Set good goals (specific and measurable). Go after them each day.
2. Make goal getting a daily practice
Here's the thing that I think holds people back. They set goals for their year but they don't integrate those big-picture goals into their daily lives.
Buy a planner today if you don't already have one. Write your 2018 goals in your planner. Spend time at the start of each month looking over your goals. What can you do this month to accomplish them? Then, each Sunday night, look over your plans for the week. Schedule time throughout your week for activities that align with your goals. Finally, take five minutes each morning to look over your plan for the day.
I also like to spend time "taking my inventory" at night as I fall asleep. In a loving, non-judgmental way, I reflect on my day. What went well? What might I have done differently? What can I do better tomorrow? I say my prayers and then fall asleep. This simple practice holds me accountable for my own behavior, the only thing in life that I can really control. But again, I want to emphasize that I approach this with self-love. Beating myself up is old news. Negative thinking shuts down the very parts of my brain that help me to stay motivated and it messes up my energy. I have learned to set goals and to reflect on my behavior without being cruel to myself.
3. Focus on Building the New
You might have noticed that I'm using the word goals instead of resolutions. To me, a resolution is something that we resolve to not do anymore. In other words, we focus on a negative habit that we want to stop. In my experience, trying to stop a negative habit is one of the most self-defeating things we can do in life. It doesn't work. I have some experience in this department, believe me. Whenever I've tried to quit something (cigarettes, Diet Coke, alcohol, people, social media) it only seems to grow stronger in my life.
What's the secret then? I've learned through experience that when I build new, positive, more life-affirming habits, rather than trying to stop the bad habits, that the new habits eventually take over and the bad ones naturally fall away on their own. I noticed this a lot when I started to regularly practice yoga. As I developed this amazing way to manage my stress, the old habits that I used to use to manage stress were no longer needed. Eventually, they decreased in my life until they were gone.
There's some science behind this, if you're interested.
The Talent Code was one of the last books that I read in 2017 and it blew my mind but also seemed incredibly obvious at the same time. The book is about how talent is created and along with that, how habits form. Basically, the more that we do something, the more those pathways get built in our brains. For example, I had a Diet Coke pathway for nearly three decades of my life. I drank about three sodas each day. That pathway was wicked strong, as we say in Massachusetts. Trying to break it was futile. Once pathways are created and wrapped with myelin (I won't get into detail on that, just read the book, but myelin is a super cool brain chemical type thing), we can't unbreak them. However, we can lay new pathways and strengthen those.
I tried for years to break my Diet Coke pathway. That sucker was strong. What finally got me off Diet Coke? Practicing yoga on a daily basis, which laid a new pathway that was mindful of my body and what I put into it. One day that new pathway was stronger than the old one, just like that. It has been the same with alcohol in my life. I used to use it as a form of stress relief, something I think a lot of people are doing because people are so stressed out. I've been sober, alcohol-free, whatever you want to call it, for over a year. I don't miss it AT ALL. I literally never want a drink. I feel so much healthier, am less bloated, and I love waking up each morning feeling completely clear-headed. I also estimate that I've saved over a thousand dollars from not drinking.
Science shows that focusing on breaking bad habits doesn't work. Instead, focus on creating some new pathways in 2018.
Wishing you an amazing year filled with love and laughter!
-Karen, version 2018