I love the start of January. A full 365 days ahead. A fresh page in my journal. A sense of hope and a renewed sense of possibility in my heart. I've always loved being intentional about the year and spending time thinking about the people, places and things I want to see more of in the coming year.
So, why do New Years resolutions have such a bad reputation?
Over 80-90% of all resolutions that are made each New Year will fail. The top resolutions are variations of pretty common themes. People generally want to eat better, exercise more, spend less, look after themselves better, read more books, learn something new, change jobs, get in (or out) of a relationship, create more time and space in their lives.
I think resolutions like these are somewhat doomed for 3 main reasons:
- They're too big to be meaningful;
- because they're so big they create a degree of fear (fear of failure, fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of not knowing who we could be and what we could achieve):
- and crucially, without removing the assumptions underlying the existing behaviour any change is dependent on willpower which we only have a finite amount of. You can force a change in behaviour but if you don't change the underlying assumptions you'll fail or replace one bad habit with another one that keeps the underlying assumption safely in place.
Identifying what we need to change is the easy bit. Working out and thinking through the assumptions that are fuelling our behaviour is more challenging. But if we're willing to take the time to think I believe any change we want to make is actually far easier than we currently believe. When we uncover the underlying assumptions driving our behaviour the distance between thinking and acting disappears.
Why we can't rely on willpower:
Willpower is only going to get you so far. It can and does work but it's like a muscle. It gets tired quickly and if you use it on one thing you have less in reserve to use on other things. If you're having to rely on willpower to achieve a change it's highly unlikely you'll be able to sustain it for long enough for it to become habitual.
The unconscious assumptions driving your behaviour are far stronger than your conscious willpower.
The easier and more effective way to change behaviour is to replace untrue and limiting assumptions with true and liberating alternatives so that your thoughts, feelings and assumptions are fully aligned. Your behaviour changes because your thoughts have changed.
So how do we make changes for the better?
Change doesn't happen in the grand gestures or the big statements. It starts in a willingness to think about what matters most. Once you're clear on what you want you can then challenge any assumptions that are stopping you and remove them until they no longer limit who or what you are.
- I set aside 60-90 minutes to review the past year to think about what went really well. I then think about what I was most proud of; who I'm most grateful for; what stood out as memorable experiences. I then think about whether there was anything I wanted to achieve but didn't? If so, what did I learn?
- I then start to think about the year ahead. I think about what I would like more of this year. What changes do I really want to make? I look at the year holistically so I think about my health, learning, home, holidays, relationships as well as work.
- The question I ask myself is 'what is the best thing I could do for myself that would make me healthier and happier this year?
- Once I'm clear on what I want I identify 1 business and 1 personal goal per month and put them in the diary. Those 1 or 2 things become my main focus until I'm happy they've been achieved. That's it. The challenge is letting that be enough. Knowing that by choosing to focus on achieving these small things that over a year I will continue to create a life I love.
My intentions for the start of the year are to get an article about the Thinking Environment published in a lifestyle magazine (Simple Life, Psychologies or Mindful Living) and to not drink any alcohol for 90 days (I started on Boxing day). So, what is the best thing that you could do for yourself this year? Please send me an email or tweet and let me know.