Oh No! Not New Year’s Resolutions!

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Best wishes for a wonderful New Year!
May it be filled with unexpected treasures, loving connections, and new successes!
Since New Years Resolutions tend to fail, let’s dismiss the idea as untenable. I suspect that one of the reasons New Years Resolutions fail is that the term resolve probably automatically sets up defenses. I prefer working with terms that are more motivating like desires, goals, and intentions. Here’s some ideas for creating desirable change in your life.

Keep Going. If at first you don’t succeed, learn from your mistakes and keep going. Smokers and alcoholics usually experience several relapses before putting together long-term abstinence. The same is true for any major change. Sometimes adopting a lifetime goal, like good health as a way of life, helps minimize the toll on the self-esteem that temporary setbacks have and helps put setbacks in perspective. Some goals, like sobriety, are better lived “one day at a time.”

Acknowledge Conflict. Acknowledge that parts of you may have conflicting interests. Although part of you might really want to achieve a goal. Other parts of you may be more comfortable with the status quo, or a less ambitious goal. For example, you may decide to lose weight for health reasons. Parts of you may be reluctant to give up some of the sensual pleasures with food that you wish to restrict or eliminate from your diet. Other parts may get comfort from food that you have decided to restrict or may be uncomfortable with the secondary gains like extra attention from potential romantic interests and all that that entails. Acknowledging the conflict can dissipate the tension and generate problem solving.

Modify Goals. The goal then becomes identifying and becoming friends with the different parts of yourself and negotiating an agreement that incorporates the whole. Often a counselor and/or support group can be useful in identifying conflicting interests, the defenses raised on their behalf, and strategies for disarming defenses.

Plan: what, where, and when. Men tend to do better when they decide on specific goals. Plan to reduce distractions. Too many goals set at one time can act as distractions. Specific goals have the advantage of focusing attention that can increase the likelihood of succeeding and improve the quality of the outcome.

Take stock before setting a goal. Hastily set goals are easily discarded. Consider what seems to be the main glitch in your life. I did this a few years back and realized that the place where I was getting stuck was health issues, which is not something that my doctors and I had considered because I was healthy in so many of the ways middle-aged people weren’t. When I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture, I realized that health problems of one sort or another were constantly tripping me up. This was a revelation, as I did not think of myself as an unhealthy person. Once I focused on health issues, other things fell into place.

Desire. Consider this important question, “What do you most desire?” Desire is usually different from what you think you should do. A way of discovering what you truly desire is to ask yourself questions like, “If there were no way I could fail, what would I do?” “What is something that I have always wanted to do and have put off?”

Get support. Twelve step programs, like AA, are based, on people sharing with each other what works. Women tend to improve success when they share their goal with others.

Essential States. The word intention carries with it both the meaning of to attend to or focus and the purpose of having a positive outcome. Adopt an intention that focuses on the benefits that you will receive. It is especially helpful to imagine the positive changes that you will experience as a result of achieving your goal. Imagining the secondary gains of achieving a goal in as much sensual and emotional detail as possible helps bring your subconscious in alignment with your conscious mind. For example, if your goal is to quit smoking, you might imagine the exhilaration and confidence boost of a long pleasant bike ride on a mild sunny day with all the sights, sounds, smells and palpable sensations. Making it real in your imagination is very motivating. Would you experience an essential state like Joy, Love, Peace, Serenity, Truth, Compassion, Clarity, Freedom, or Courage? Intentions that draw you into an essential state are true expressions of desire.

General benefits. One article I read suggested that setting New years resolutions tended to be bad for your health because resolutions were often unreasonable and set one up for failure and reduced self-esteem. For this reason, I prefer Intentions or Affirmations that focus on solutions. The article suggested adopting goals with the benefits in mind like going green, getting in good cardio vascular condition, improve or learn a skill like guitar playing, and giving back to the community. The key is asking yourself daily or weekly, “What am I going to do today (or this week) to contribute to this goal?” The Daily and Weekly actions add up to a lifelong habit.

Believe In Yourself. Affirmations state the belief that you are capable and have positive qualities. An affirmation I favor in that regard is “I Show Up in mind, body and heart.” People tend to think that their efforts don’t count for much. The truth is that both our absence and our presence have ripple effects we can not measure. Showing Up is inherently self-affirming. It is saying, “I count,” and breaks the isolation of PTSD. Because showing up has ripple effects that one can not see, it is not possible to say that you failed. The effect you create by showing up in body, heart and mind are impossible to quantify. And perhaps because of that, I find just reminding myself of the Ripple effect very psychologically reinforcing.

Be Flexible. I confess. In 2008 I had a whole list of affirmations on the right side of my computer screen. This has been my pattern. It allows me to succeed at something on a regular basis. One of them was to give through writing. I wrote 12 newsletters in 2008. This year found me learning social media and working on a second edition of A ToolKit for Healing. Showing up and practicing an affirmation or following an intention can lead to the discovery of another desire.

Practice Sufficiency Sufficiency is the habit of asking, “What do I have at hand to accomplish my goals?” In other words, it is taking inventory of the resources that available and the steps can I take now to make my goals a reality. To do this, you will also need to replace your “Yes, but” statements with “How do I …?” questions. “Yes, I would like to go back to school, but I don’t have the money” becomes “How do I find financing for college?” In 12 Step lingo, it is practicing H.O.W. – Honesty Openness and Willingness.

Keep A Journal. The indirect approach led me to the specific goal of publishing the second edition of A ToolKit for Healing from Verbally Abusive Relationships. I doubt that I will be able to see it to completion without keeping track of my progress. Recording is very reinforcing.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Figure out what worked and where you got stuck and do something different to correct the problem. Just because you did  not complete the goal does not mean you have to give it up or punish yourself with negative self-talk.  See Talkin’ Bout a Resolution (Not a Punishment) byGabrielle Gawne-Kelnar if you tend to “reward” your mistakes and failure to reach your goals with negative self-talk.

Instead, follow this Japanese Proverb, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” If you made progress, carry the goal forward in the New Year. Persistence pays off.
copyright Noreen Wedman 2008-2010

peace, light, love and joy,


2 responses to “Oh No! Not New Year’s Resolutions!

  1. Forgot Resolutions Already? 2 Strategies to Get You Back on Track, ELISHA GOLDSTEIN, PH.D. http://bit.ly/9taJ57

    Timely article! Lack of adequate self-love impairs setting and keeping affirmations. I suspect most people have a very conditional self-love based on performance quality or some other standard rather than it being a natural thing to have. I also think most people love themselves, but it is compromised by shame. Shame can be such a “normal” state for people who have experienced abusive childhoods that it may be even hard to identify. Practicing an affirmation/intention can develop self-love.

  2. Thank you for writing this, it means a lot to me. I have struggled with an addiction for most of my life, so what you wrote here was very meaningful to me. Visit my blog if you’d like to read more. Thanks again for this web site – it is really educational.

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