For years, I dove into all kinds of grand resolutions every January 1. I would write them all down in my journal and have exquisite plans to carry them out. I would make serious vows to meditate more, eat only vegetables, cut out sugar and alcohol and work out every single day. Christmas was full of indulgence because of the mentality “I will start on January 1”. Looking back, I see that there were many January’s when I wouldn’t even last to the end of the first weekend! I very much remember the feeling of extreme disappointment and shame that I felt because I couldn’t even keep it together for a week. This would lead to a spiral of discouragement and rejigging of the goals. They would get chopped up and adapted to the point where I had no clear direction at all.
These unrealistic goals every year were deeply connected to my self-worth and self-love. The goals were absolutely and completely unattainable because they were set with one objective – improve everything on the outside. The outside was not good enough and I needed to do everything to make it better. I won’t deny that there are certainly times when we need to consider the state of our physical health and make changes to feel better. Perhaps the extra weight is causing back and knee pain. Or the type of foods we are consuming make us feel a burning sensation up towards our throat. Our bodies will almost always let us know when something is amiss. We don’t often listen to it or notice that it is screaming for our attention – we actually become quite good at ignoring it all together!
It was a real turning point when I saw that I could not simply focus on changing the physical. In fact, when I realized the energy behind that objective, I knew I would never stick to my goals. I grew tired of making resolutions and having them fail so early in the year. So, I started to ask questions of myself which included: What makes me feel good? What makes me feel grounded on a day to day basis? What makes me feel bad when I consume them? (this question goes beyond food – I ask this question when it comes to social media as well). I also ask “what helps me and what harms me? I use a bullet journal to keep track of what feels good and what feels bad. Both pieces of data are extremely important because we can’t always rely on adding things to feel good, we sometimes need to stop doing things that feel bad. I am not going to pretend that asking ourselves these questions is easy. It takes a long time to establish the habit and it also takes a certain amount courage to look inward to notice what is truly nourishing you. When we look more closely, we might be forced to make a change that feels scary. Let’s face it, as humans, we want to avoid things that are uncertain and scary.
All this to say that resolutions truly don’t work. The Ten Percent Happier podcast and meditation app will be focusing on the idea of self-love instead of resolutions for 2021. There is a lot of evidence that suggests my experience of making yearly resolutions and failing terribly is common. It has been about 4 years since my elaborate lists were a thing. I continue to have goals but I ask critical questions first to figure out what direction to take. I don’t make them once per year, I make them every single month. I adapt them based on how I am feeling and what I need. I finally kicked the habit of “let’s get it all in before starting tomorrow”. That was a really harmful thinking pattern that was keeping me trapped. I work on everything at once – my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. It has changed how I approach life and while I am not perfect all the time, I am free from the shackles of new year’s resolutions that never work anyway.
Best to you all in 2021. May it be filled with self-reflection and discovery.