How to Reconsider Resolutions
Updated: Jan 19, 2019
Your relationship with resolutions, like mine, might be a little tainted.
I used to love the idea of a fresh start, a blank slate, and all that. There was an element of magical thinking that really appealed to me. When we count down, in unison, on December 31st, 10-9-8…, and get to 1, POOF! It’s all going to be fresh. We’re going to choose our behaviors, attitudes and habits, like we’re picking them from a freshly-stocked store shelf, clean and new and perfect. They’re going to be the best-of-the-best ones we can imagine. We’ll be able to stick with these new behaviors, attitudes and habits, all throughout the year and until the end of time, through the sheer force of our will.
I love the simplicity of the idea that we each have that kind of personal power, and that the choices we make can have such drastic, immediate and long-standing results. I love the clean break in time: Then versus Now. It’s not completely wrong... but the ultimate truth of it might just be a bit more involved.
We can declutter our thinking here, when it comes to resolutions. We can keep the good and get rid of what doesn’t work for us. Which is a great way, come to think of it, to approach this new year or any other new thing in life.
We shouldn’t forget resolutions entirely. Yes, life changes based upon universally agreed-upon dates and times is kind of weird. Everyone’s path is different, but there’s some good stuff there. We can separate the magic from the miraculous and consider a new perspective that feels solid and grounded, but is still exciting.
How do we Start.? With a fresh perspective.
When we really think through the Cinderella-esque fantasy of resolutions, we have the opportunity to get real: is what I describe above really what we’re expecting to happen? If so… Haven’t we done that before and been disappointed? And when we were disappointed, didn’t we shut down a little and have a little less ability to think big, and to be open to big, bold ideas?
Our passionate love affair with resolutions (as a personal development quick fix) might have left us a little bit burned. Let’s acknowledge this, so we can move forward.
Think back to the kind of dreams you’re dreaming now versus the ones you dreamed as a 20-year-old. Or as a teen! The resolutions you make now might not be as big and bold. Maybe they could be, more.
To get back on track and to strengthen your dreaming muscle again, ask yourself: Are you willing to try again, and are you willing to do something differently now?
You have the benefit of experience on your side now – that’s something 20-year-old you didn’t have. Maybe we can combine the best of both worlds – the youthful enthusiasm AND the practical experience – to create something you can get excited about.
A more clear-headed approach to resolutions helps us get more real about the good, juicy work we can expect to do to achieve them. That kind of approach will also work better to keep us motivated if the landscape doesn’t look quite like we thought it would when we first set out on the journey, Jan. 1.
Resolutions are goals, and goals are journeys.
A fresh perspective might be to see resolutions as goals, and goals as journeys, processes or adventures. It’s a little less sexy and magic wand-y, but way more effective.
You’re making life changes. You’re exploring and adopting new habits, cycling out of old patterns (and, maybe, relationships?), and seeing what it feels like to live in a way that’s different from what you’re used to… If that’s not a freakin’ journey, I don’t know what is!
So, if it’s a journey, how would that alter the way you prepare yourself?
You would know where you wanna go. There’s a thing you’re after that’s tangible and measurable. It’s something that will make your life better, or take one area of your life to a new and exciting level.
You’d have a north star to guide you. You know the general direction it will take to get there, even if you can’t really see the turn-by-turn view right now.
You’d want to have a map, as soon as possible. In this case, it’s a set of steps or tasks you need to complete to unlock that next level. Discovering and adjusting these steps and tasks (aka creating a plan) might be some of the first work you do (deeper in the Start. and Sort. steps).
You’ll have some tangible mileposts in mind, so you don’t wander off too far, for too long. You’re going to have to stay motivated. You’ll need to discover the teeny tiny moments to celebrate; small wins will happen along the way to your bigger prize.
Have lots of snacks on hand. Just because snacks are always a good idea to have around!
Pack enough supplies to sustain you. Encouragement, help, a kind word, a friendly nudge. Don’t assume your friends or family will know how to support you or understand where you’re going. Tell them, and ask them for what you need!
Carry along a healthy amount of patience. Sometimes the road winds around a little longer than it looks when you first start out. That’s natural (and part of the fun, if you’re able to see it that way).
Based on your level of knowledge now about that thing you’re going for, be willing to course-correct if you find your goal is, in actuality, too externally-based and completely out of your rational control right now. This doesn’t mean “when things get hard” – it’s something you’ll deal with later, once you jump in and get going.
Some other thoughts to take with you...
Sometimes, getting goals is more about how we change and grow to become what a goal asks us to be – the internal stuff – rather than the external thing itself. But don’t overthink that, as you’re about to embark. Let the energy and enthusiasm of the exciting Start. propel you, and you’ll figure out the next steps later. One step at a time.
Relish the fact that you’ll never be as dumb and awkward about this new thing you want to do, as you are right now. There’s a youthful kind of ridiculous beauty in that.
Get ready for some beginner’s luck and serendipity. Things that will wow you are on the way, and they will happen naturally, as a by-product of you doing what you need to do. I truly believe that real-deal dreams and goals are gifts from God, so it makes sense that the brush will be cleared by whatever Higher Power you call on (and some kind people all along the way), as you do what you can do, too.
The goals-as-a-journey approach is similar to the SMART goal system, where you take what you think your goal is and think it through to be sure it’s: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. (Google “SMART goals” if you want to learn more.)
Because goal-getting is a journey, and because it can be difficult to fully determine, at the outset, how long things will take, you might want to go ahead decide that enjoying the journey is non-negotiable. Yes, you’ll have to find or create some pockets of time to do some work, and yes, you may not always feel 100% up for it. You will need to resist the siren’s call of your Netflix queue some nights.
Give yourself some grace. Remember that a well-lived life is never ONLY about ONE specific endpoint. Many other aspects of your life (other journeys!) will still be happening all around you. Taking time to be present and to enjoy those things exactly as they are will make it all worthwhile. (And, if you need a reason to make it purposeful: those enriching experiences will make you more attractive to the people, places and things that will assist you in your goal-getting adventure.)
Go Deeper: Explore the Possibilities
If you need help exploring what your resolutions, goals and journeys could be – or, to edit down and prioritize what you really want to take on this year! – check out our brand new (free!) Goals Worksheet. It helps give you visibility to all the moving parts of your life so you can get the most out of them and decide what you really, really want to dream and do this year.