How to Get the Most Out of Your Resolutions

How to Get the Most Out of Your Resolutions

As 2016 approaches, perhaps your mind has been on certain lifestyle changes you plan to make or some goals you intend to achieve over the next 12 months. I think it’s important to be able to see where you want to go or who you want to be, and to project yourself toward that evolution. Yet, most of us make infrequent resolutions, experience some initial excitement, and eventually revert to old habits. I’m not meaning to disparage your aspirations; I just want to explore some common hurdles and suggest a better course to success.

First, there’s the challenge of structure. Most of us install too little structure around the aspirations that matter to us. We say we want them real bad, but we get around to them only at the end of the day or after the email and Facebook checking and all our other routines have already been attended to. If you really want it so bad as they recommend at 8 figure dream lifestyle – schedule it into your day like you would a work meeting, or a medical appointment that has a no-show fee. That is, your goal gets its own time and you schedule it into your week no later than the morning of the first day of the week.

Second is the challenge of attitude. Beyond building your aspirations into your life structure, they deserve an appropriate measure of reverence. I’m not implying that some judgmental Supreme Being is watching you and will only give you what you want if you have the right attitude. I’m saying that you are watching you, and your behavior and outcome follow your attitude.

Let’s say two people have the same problem – depression – and both decide to approach it in the same way: they plan to utilize cognitive-behavioral techniques throughout each day and to begin a daily meditation practice. Contestant number one sets aside a special place for their meditation. They put fresh flowers there. They light a candle. They write their meditation practice into their calendar with little stars and hearts around it. They tell their friends about their new regimen and ask them to check in on them. They schedule daily check-ins for themselves. Although they have lots of despair and they don’t know if it will work, they decide to evaluate this practice with the most discipline and trust they can muster. Simply put, they make it special and they take it seriously, the way someone might approach the study of kungfu with a master.

Contestant number two doesn’t actually schedule their meditation practice. They assume that they’ll find time for it somewhere in the day. Throughout the day, when pockets of time appear, they choose to do something else. When they occasionally get around to meditating at the end of the night, they fall asleep 30 seconds into it. They don’t set aside a special space for their meditation because that would be weird and woo-woo and cultish or something, and why would a special space make a difference anyway? Contestant number two tries the cognitive-behavioral techniques sometimes, but when immediate results don’t appear they allow themselves to disparage the process and slack off on applying it.

I think we can make a pretty accurate guess as to the difference in these two contestants’ outcomes. Maybe contestant number one won’t become ecstatically happy, but it’s almost certain that they’ll feel better. The same goes for someone approaching a weight loss goal, or a financial goal, or a relationship goal. Build a structure – make a plan and put it into your calendar – and bring your fierce attitude, because you’re going to be coming up against a strong urge to go back to your old habits. The kungfu analogy was deliberate, because martial arts training is a truly excellent adjunct to making deep and lasting change, since this requires cutting through so much internal (and possibly external) resistance.

The third challenge is the time frame. Last year I introduced the idea of giving your year a theme, which I learned from my friend Andy Drish. Some examples are: The Year of Learning to Love Myself, The Year of Ease, The Year of Unshakable Happiness, The Year of Becoming Wealthy, etc. I still love this idea, and I still recommend that you choose a theme for 2016 and write it down in fancy print or do something else ceremonious with it. But, I think that by itself its time frame may be too sprawling to produce the outcome you desire, and the same limitation exists for most people’s New Year’s Resolutions. By January 3rd, you’re thinking, “What was my resolution? I’m pretty sure it was to eat more gummy bears. Oh, and to stop discriminating against the green ones. The Year of Diversity, that’s right . . .”

In light of the attention-killing effects of social media, perhaps a New Day’s Resolution is about the most we can expect of ourselves. Each day, even if you do nothing else to aim yourself toward a happier or more evolved you, try this practice. Pretty please? With xylitol on top? I’m asking for only 45 seconds per morning, and I’d like you to try it for a mere 365 days. Here it is:

  1. Choose a theme for your day and give it a name (examples: The Day of Lightness, The Day of Opportunities to Connect with People, The Day of Loving My Body, The Day of Seeing Magic Everywhere, The Day of Embodying Abundance, The Day of Letting My Heart Open, etc.).
  2. Write it down. If you have our Dreambook, this process can easily be incorporated into the framework the Dreambook provides. Otherwise, you can write it in a journal, put it on a special piece of paper and carry it with you in your pocket, or crumple it up and swallow it. 😉
  3. Using whatever remainder of the 45 seconds is left, visualize and feel yourself embodying the theme of the day. See yourself (in your mind’s eye) and feel yourself (throughout your body and in the deepening of your breath) embodying it at home, at work, at the gym, with your boss, or while doing whatever else you’ll do today. It’s essentially the same process that athletes and performers use before doing their thing. Lay it out in your mind as you want – and expect – it to go. 

I’m betting that 365 New Day’s Resolutions will be way more transformative than a single New Year’s Resolution, but let’s do an experiment and see what happens. Will you join me? Share your Theme of the Year or one of your New Day’s Resolutions and tell us how it affects your life.

With love,

Dr. Peter Borten


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