Updated: Jan 10, 2022
The new year looms. Too often we look back with...dissatisfaction. We missed opportunities. We could have done more. Could have seized opportunities. Could have changed. Could have broken free from something. Could have ended up in better shape physically.
So the old year ends with our beating ourselves up with a long list of might-have-beens and should’ve’s and could’ve’s.
We try to compensate for this with the age-old tactic of bearing down, winding up our will power, bringing forth our resolve. Resolve! That’s the ticket!! What about past resolutions that amounted to nothing? So what! This year will be different!!! We’ll be that much more...resolved!!
Can we stop this silly game?
Trying to use will power and resolutions to change our personalities and habits is like trying to save a person from drowning by throwing them a flotation device made of confetti.
So this year, why not try something that will work.
Here are the ingredients.
Ask yourself, what’s the most important thing to you when it comes to change? What’s your super-top number-1 priority? The one thing that, if you accomplished that and nothing else, you’d feel really good about yourself?
Now ask yourself:
1. Is doing this do-able? Is it something that you can just...do. For example, anyone can write a book. At 400 words a day—weekends off—you can write an 80,000 word book in 11 months. That’s do-able. But can you get it published? That’s not “do-able” because it’s not in your control. Neither is its becoming a best seller.
Want to learn another language? What’s do-able is your setting aside 20-30 minutes a day with some language learning program. How much progress you make? Well, you can’t control that.
2. Is doing this fun? Pleasant? Enjoyable? Because if not, you have a problem that, if you don’t take it seriously, will sabotage your attempt to change. We don’t persist at things we don’t enjoy. We just don’t. So if the thing you want to do doesn’t seem like fun, you’re just going to have to find a way to make it fun.
Or if not fun, then seriously rewarding. This is why dieting is a problem for so many people. Not only isn’t it fun. Except for the early stages of rapid weight loss, it’s not so rewarding a few months in when the pounds are coming off more slowly.
What does that mean? It means that the people who are successful long-term are not those with more grim resolve. They’re those with better ways of making the process rewarding.
3. Do you have support? Are there people and processes in place to make achieving this easy for you? For example, it’s 1,000% easier for us to get to the gym if we have a friend or partner waiting there to work out with us at 7 AM Monday, Wednesday, and Friday than if it matters to no one if we go or not.
Sometimes it’s the structures of our lives that support us or don’t. It matters if the only time you can find to do what’s important to you is when you’re exhausted after a long day at work.
So let’s add up what all this means.
I’ll let you in on a huge secret. The point—the real point—of all this isn’t for you to
accomplish anything!! That’s right!!
The point is for you to have a better relationship with yourself
And that means
exploring what’s most important to you
taking seriously how to make it do-able
figuring out how to make it fun or rewarding day in, day out
finding support, and
by doing all this achieving the goal of greater self-trust.
That’s really the point of all this.
Being able to trust yourself.
It’s not about setting lofty goals or even choosing the “best” goal. It’s about setting even just one goal for the year, but making sure it’s do-able, fun or rewarding, and supported.
Then, at the end of next year, you’ll be able to say something even better than “Look at what I did.” You’ll be able to say, “I set a goal I knew I could accomplish, and I accomplished it. I kept my word to myself.”
The paintings in the text are Constable's Salisbury Cathedral Seen from the Meadows, 1831, and Frederic Edwin Church's Rainy Season in the Tropics, 1877.