Welcome to the new year everybody! With the annual calendar reset comes another 365 in the rearview, the opportunity for a fresh start, & of course, New Year's resolutions (NYR).
We all come to resolutions in our own way. Some plan theirs months in advance–maybe it’s been a long-time coming to kick a bad habit or be a better person. Others find themselves reminded of the tradition in the spur of the moment & use it as an opportunity to motivate their change-making.
Personally, I often decide to resolve because it feels like a way to acknowledge the passing of another year gone by while simultaneously embracing & intentionally showing up for the new year to come. At the same time, though those sentiments are true, my resolution also happens as a somewhat last-minute attempt to be an active participant in the festivities & albeit temporal hype. In other words, it’s a kinda FOMO that motivates me to make a spontaneous effort to improve my life in the form of the infamous New Year’s "res."
From my experience, I’ve noticed that a majority of folks fall into a similar category as I do when it comes to deciding to make a NYR. We do so in a somewhat hastily & in a subconscious effort to hop on the bandwagon.
There’s nothing wrong with embracing the energy of the moment & being inspired by those around you who are trying to make their lives better–as I said, it happens to me too! But, it’s easy for us to jump into these big decisions without fully thinking them through.
The biggest issue with diving into a NYR is that we push ourselves into change before we are really ready for it.
No time or energy gets put into identifying potential challenges & how to deal with them, & we spend no time manifesting what life will be like when the resolution succeeds. Though these seem like small factors contributing to the overall success of resolutions, they actually hold the potential to majorly impact your chances of keeping your res for the long-term.
There’s another important factor at play here that dooms the typical effort to use the new year to drive change, & it has to do with duality. Western culture is steeped in it. We are conditioned to think in terms of good & bad; love & hate; black & white with little capacity for gray areas to exist. Though lately there’s been a collective shift in folks finding more comfortability in the in-between areas, it’s still a challenging concept to many of us.
Duality shows up big time with NYRs. The Oxford definition of the word resolution itself is dualistic: a firm decision to do or not to do something. You either do it or you don’t. There’s no room for making mistakes, sometimes following through, or mostly sticking to it. Resolutions often get ditched early on because we find that even if we only fail a small amount of the time, looking through our culture's lens, it usually means we’ve failed completely.
This year, instead of making the usual choice to make a major change all at once, why not explore the possibility of allowing positive change to come more slowly, freely, & easily by resolving to follow through on something called a being goal instead of diving headfirst into the typical, lofty res...
So what the heck is a being goal?
They can be tough to wrap our heads around. Western culture has conditioned us to think that goals (in this case, NYRs) involve physical accomplishments as a measuring stick for achievement. Let's call these action goals. Then there's being goals that go against the grain of societal norms to free you from seeking palpable success & instead, allow you to encounter growth in a less linear, concrete, & dualistic way. This form of goal-setting asks you to open your mind & approach your past, present, & potential future life from a perspective of curiosity.
Despite their vague nature, being goals prepare you for action goals. They’ll help you feel fully ready, willing, & able to make the change you desire. Allowing yourself the time to carry out these intangible being goals sets you up for a better chance at success at whatever it is you’re seeking through your NYR like eating healthier, losing weight, saving money, etc.
There are three main components to being goals:
In order to grow, we need to be intentional about carving out time to process the difficult stuff. Don’t be discouraged! It can be challenging to even identify what it is that requires this level of attention from us. It could be that you need to spend some time mentally uncovering the roots beneath a fight you recently had with a loved one or the reason why you can’t seem to get yourself motivated to work out regularly. Talking with a therapist, health coach, or a really good friend can help you uncover some starting places here if you’re unsure where to hone in.
The processing itself can take on many forms depending on what works best for you. Journaling is a go-to for many, while taking a long walk brings the space, quiet, & mental clarity others need to work through complex & uncomfortable thoughts. Don’t have access to a great place to take a walk? I often tell people to take advantage of the time they have to be alone. The shower is a go-to as it offers solidarity, no distractions, & a place where a lot of mental processing can be accomplished. & for some of us, a chat with a friend can help us get down to the roots of certain issues & help us be vulnerable & honest with ourselves.
No matter what your resolution may be, one concept to hammer into your mind while going through this processing is to commit to holding space for being imperfect at executing your plans. Set an intention for yourself right now that when you do get to implementing your NYR & find yourself slipping up, you won’t get hyperfocused on the mistake. Plan to acknowledge what went wrong, map out how to avoid it in the future (if needed), & remind yourself of how much better you’re doing now than before you began working toward your goal in the first place. You’re bound to be having more success than before any effort was being made, & that’s worth celebrating!
Visualizing what your life will look like while identifying how it will improve if your resolution succeeds is paramount. Not only does this help you get crystal clear on what it is you truly want from making this effort, it’ll help you stay motivated to continue working on it.
Meditation is a great time to practice visualizing. However, if you don’t already have a meditation practice, don’t feel like you need to make one happen–meditating for 10 minutes a day could be a whole NYR! Keep it simple & visualize when you find yourself in your day-to-day transitions like waiting in line, sitting quietly as a passenger in a car, or before falling asleep.
The most important thing about this visualization is to picture yourself succeeding & seeing your life play out in a more positive way as a result of following through on your res. Part of what you’re doing is manifesting. If you foresee improvement, then it’s more likely to materialize in real life. At the same time, you’ll see clearly what waits for you at the finish line of your goal, & that will serve as a powerful source of motivation as you continue working to achieve it.
Identifying the roadblocks.
Change is hard. Realistically, it’s often even harder than we initially think because unforeseen roadblocks are bound to crop up, especially if we don’t take the time to identify them beforehand. Predicting what the obstacles could be will help you conceptualize that your res is actually a bigger commitment than originally anticipated. By identifying roadblocks, you’ll be taking these extra challenges into consideration & realize that they’ll require extra energy & time to overcome. At the same time, you’ll brainstorm solutions for how to jump over those inevitable hurdles instead of risking the potential of, in the moment, having them stress you to the point of quitting.
You can use the same strategies for carrying out the process of identifying roadblocks as you did for processing & visualization. Journaling, finding quiet thinking space, & collaborating with someone you trust are great ways to envision challenges of the res. However, I do recommend writing the obstacles & your mitigating strategies down, along with notes on any resources you may need to use to overcome them. These impediments won’t show up immediately, & it’ll be nice to remember what you were thinking now for when they do appear.
If you’ve made it this far, then you’re either ready to table the NYR, wait until you're more ready to make changes, find a better-suited NRY for you, or you’re ready to take action. Remember that just carrying out the being goal process is one of the ways to improve the likelihood of res success. You’re also more likely to stick to a NYR if it’s focused on adding something to your life as opposed to avoiding it, & make sure to set a specific & time-framed goal.1 For example, you could resolve to walk for at least 20 minutes a day, every day for the whole year. You know exactly what you’re attempting to do (it’s specific) & when you need to do it (it’s time-framed). There are plenty of other ways to make goal-setting more effective, but there are also stacks of info on the internet already about how to be successful once a goal is truly ready to be set.
You may be feeling resistant to this advice. Engaging in these concepts instead of taking action right away can feel frustrating & like you’re not making progress, but remember, being goals often don’t elicit tangible results. Though it won’t feel like you’re going anywhere in the moment, they will help you work more efficiently & with a higher chance of success when you do get around to setting & working toward your NYR.
Taking the time to carry out being goals will help you know exactly what your resolution needs to be in order to best serve you in creating the change you want to see. They’ll also set you up for a much higher chance of sticking to your resolution as the year plays out. You’ll have foreseen the challenges & how to deal with them, you’ll have a clear picture in your mind of what you’re working toward & why, & you’ll have a greater capacity for self-compassion to prevent little failures from derailing you when they inevitably arise.
Ready to try on “just being” for a bit in 2022? Give it a go. It may take a few days, weeks, or months to work through your being goals, but trust me, you’ll be thanking yourself for taking the time in the long run!
Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, et al. A large-scale experiment of New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLOS ONE. 2020;15(12):e0234097. Doi: 10.137/journal.pone.0234097.