There’s a lot of talk of “new year’s resolutions” these days. Probably because the new year seems a good time to create a “new you.”
What is a “new you?” That is a personal question that each must answer for themselves.
For me, it has to do with qualities of being rather than getting a new wardrobe or hairstyle. Those things have their place, but if you’re a reader of this blog, you probably want to look a little deeper at your life.
I always strive to be a better version of myself: less judgmental, more compassionate and forgiving, kinder, more nurturing. The list goes on.
One of my frequent prayers is for help in taking my spiritual work to the next level, and I think developing qualities like that are excellent hallmarks of a spiritual life.
Food for thought. But yes, I also want to lose the five pounds I gained over the holidays!
So now on to the practical tips for making change:
According to the experts, “resolutions” may not be the best way to accomplish a “new you.”
Research reveals that 36% of people making new year’s resolutions will break them by the end of January.
56% will give up by July.
Those aren’t very good odds. How do you beat them?
Perhaps “resolutions” are not the way to go. Maybe we should choose one goal or change at a time and make a plan for how to achieve it.
John Tierney, N.Y. Times science columnist and co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, has weighed in on the topic:
He says that people too often overestimate their own willpower. The best strategy may be to do just do one thing at a time and then move on to the next.
That makes sense, because in the spiritual practice of manifestation, it’s recommended you work on just one goal at a time so that you don’t diffuse your energy.
Also, make clear, specific and measurable goals. “Lose weight” is rather vague, but losing one pound a week is specific, measurable and much more likely to be attained.
Instead of “save money,” be specific as to how much you will save each week.
Tierney explains that will power is a form of mental energy, and it depletes throughout the day when we make decisions. People with better self-control use less willpower – they rely on good habits instead.
Mark Zuckerberg and President Barack Obama try to avoid “decision fatigue” by wearing the same outfit every day to eliminate small, daily decisions about what to wear.
“I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” President Obama said in 2012.
Eliminating small decisions leaves them with more energy, and more willpower, for the big stuff. Tierney says, “The most disciplined people actually use willpower less often than other people.”
Disciplined people also structure their lives to avoid temptation: they don’t keep bowls of candy on their desk, they don’t wake up and decide whether to work out. They’ve already made an appointment to work out with a friend so they have to show up – there’s no decision to be made.
It can also be helpful to defer decisions:
When faced with a bowl of candy, rather than tell yourself you can’t have any, tell yourself you can have some later. People who tell themselves, “I’m not going to have it now, but I can have it later,” do better at resisting temptation.
When the desert cart comes around say, “Just not tonight, maybe next time.”
If you don’t know where to begin with creating a “new you,” here are some ideas:
- Declutter: pick a part of your home each week to tidy up and get rid of what no longer serves you. The new, empty space will seem like a breath of fresh air.
- Throw out all your old makeup and get new, fresh makeup and colors.
- Engage in self-care: commit to at least one thing each week that will make you feel good and help you de-stress: listen to a meditation CD, take a hot bath with candles and music, get a massage. The opportunities are endless.
- When you don’t achieve a goal, re-evaluate. Was your goal too ambitious? Should you scale it down? What did you learn? How can you re-adjust your plan? Don’t judge yourself, simply adjust the goal or plan.
- Celebrate your successes. Every single one. You deserve it.
- Express gratitude. Make a list of everything you have to be grateful for. We often overlook the most basic things. I’ve recently been giving thanks for my appliances, indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water. Get creative with this but, above all, express gratitude. There are people all over the world who are praying for what most of us take for granted!
- Don’t watch the news in the morning. Focusing on the problems of the world is not the best way to start the day.
- Know why you are pursuing a goal. Is it for you, [or for someone else]? Will it impact your health or happiness? You probably should be able to answer yes to both those questions if you want to find proper motivation. Reasons come first, results come afterwards.
“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.” Taylor Swift