Embrace Change: Resolutions Not Reservations
The new year is about new beginnings, New Year’s resolutions, eagerness to meet goals and shedding weight (figuratively and literally in some cases). Why do we become so interested in being better? Where do we start? And why do resolutions fizzle out for some of us by February or March? While I am not a big supporter of only starting something new or making a positive change in the new year (the research does not support it either), I am a big supporter of the idea that life comes in seasons and different seasons may require starting over or making significant changes.
Change: Why be better?
The idea of death and rebirth is as old as the world. We see the process for death and rebirth in nature. We’ve come so far from being an agrarian society, that it’s possible we forget how natural it is to let things die so something beautiful can be born and flourish. New seasons in life require ridding ourselves of the old and adopting the new. Things get old and stale because it may be time to let them go, retire, or transform them. There is simply no way for us to be perfect or have it all together in life at all times in life. While I’m not entirely sure if she said it first, Glennon Melton Doyle said, “There is nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so don’t expect yourself to do so either.” It is a healthy and necessary rhythm for life to flow in and out of old and new… loss and birth… busy and unscheduled… the list goes on. When we can grant ourselves the freedom to be in stages of death and loss, it takes the pressure off and allows us to be present and mindful in the moments of rebirth. When we aren’t so hung up on what it means to be perfect and have it all together everyday, we can enjoy the lows as much as the highs knowing that “this too shall pass” and when it does, it’s going to feel that much better!
Change: Where do I start?
Often choices about something that needs to change comes from frustration or dislike. There is something we see wrong with our current state of life; perhaps it is weight, procrastination, or temper (to name a few). Usually these are framed in a negative light and usually we are really hard on ourselves using generalizations and inaccurate statements, “ I always…” “I never…” “I can’t…” Whatever the catalyst to decide to make change, it usually starts with a bleak and negative outlook. “I don’t want to be bad at this anymore, so I am going to start being more this ___(insert positive replacement behavior)___.” What if making the choice to change something started with simply acknowledging something we already do well. If I want to be a better runner, instead of looking at the fact that I’ve never run a marathon, perhaps I look at what I can do related to running. I look at the fact that I can go on a 30 minute walk and I start from that baseline. I make a goal to walk for 25 minutes and run for 5. And then I build from there. This does wonders for self-esteem and the ability to believe in ourselves that change really can happen. This also allows for quicker, smaller successes that we can build on because we are seeing small, incremental change, and that feels good!
Change: How do I stick to it?
Most would acknowledge that making lasting change is hard. We have a tendency to keep the status quo because it is easy to fall into old habits and often old habits work for us because they fill a need. If you look back to times when you’ve made a change in life rhythms or outlook, the change usually came over time and after a significant life stage shift or series of events (example- being able to function on less sleep in our 30’s than in our 20’s because of having children or a more rigorous work schedule). Often that change sticks because we need it to survive. Sometimes there are more pivotal antecedents such as “I’ve hit rock bottom” or “I couldn’t take it anymore,” or sometimes even more significant, “My choices were hurting my family.” Yes, it is true that highly motivated individuals who the right personalities can sit down with a goal writing journal and make some lasting change and meet goals in their lives out of planned persistence. But for the other 98% of us, it often is much more of a “when the rubber meets the road” moment. Whatever the circumstance, change requires you to find motivation… the why. Verbalize and write down the motivation: “I want to change because…” then post it, put reminders in your phone, tell a friend, hire a life coach… whatever you need to do to instill the right guidance for those moments when you lose motivation or you question your own commitment, you will want those reminders to be clear and in your face, urging you to keep at it.
Go for it!
We are human beings that live life in ups and downs and with highs and lows.
We make over 100 conscious decisions everyday… 25,000-ish decisions a year…a million or two over the course of a lifetime… do the math, that’s a lot of failed attempts. Give yourself grace but know you have control over the decisions you make toward the person you want to become. Know that while change comes out of necessity (sometimes urgent and sometimes not), you will make mistakes along the way and becoming a different version of yourself takes time. You might have false starts and restarts, and that is fine. There is no perfect time to create a new beginning.
When you’re unsure if now is a good time to start, look at your calendar and ask yourself, “Do I want to have this same exact conversation in my head in 2 days, questioning if now is the right time to make a change, or do I want to be 2 steps ahead, closer to a better outlook, a better habit, a better relationship, (fill in the blank), in 2 days.” A resolution is a “firm decision to do or not do something,” but I find it more impacting to use this concept as a verb: “moving forward, I will resolve to…” Turned into an action statement and then repeated like a mantra or statement of affirmation, there really is no room for “used to,” “can’t”or “I never.”
Written by: Josi Garcia is the Co-Founder of ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, holds a Masters degree in Special Education, and has experience working with schools and families supporting individuals with special needs.
How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions. Psychology Today. Written by The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR)at Cornell University. December 26, 2017.
Norcross, JC, et, al. Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers. J Clin Psychol. 2002 Apr;58(4):397-405
Photo credit: Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash