As we stand on the threshold of another year, many people are contemplating and setting their resolutions. We all know that many of those resolutions will be abandoned or forgotten in a few weeks or months. Resolutions tend to set people up for failure, effectively perpetuating disappointment or self doubt, keeping people stuck in complacency or dysfunction.
Regardless, I love the spirit of resolutions. The hopefulness and intentions behind them are wonderful. It’s like we’ve been treading water in a vast sea and our resolutions are a life preserver that we’ve managed to grab hold of. They offer a direct line to freedom and salvation! After struggling for so long, we can finally see land and a glorious sunrise on the horizon…
For a little while we hold on, excited about being transported to new land. Until we realize that no one is pulling us to solid ground. We’re on our own here and change requires more effort and energy than anticipated. So we let go and return to the familiar motion of treading water. Hey, we’re surviving and that’s good enough.
Treading water is not good enough. Surviving is not the same as thriving. We are ALL capable of more. But as you consider the changes you want to make in the coming year, ditch the notion of “resolutions.” A resolution is a solution to a problem. The word alone implies that there is something wrong that needs to be fixed.
There is nothing wrong with you or your life. Sure, maybe there are unhealthy habits to break or lifestyle changes that will bring greater fulfillment or more joy. Maybe you’re not living up to your full potential. But that doesn’t mean there is a problem that needs to be fixed. It means you’re human! Life is a balancing act that requires constant attention and effort. We all make mistakes, get lazy, and develop lousy habits. Those who overcome them or achieve lasting change are the ones who bravely and honestly examine their patterns and truly believe change is possible.
People tend to set goals from a place of negativity or lack. If we start out in the negative, we’re more likely to end up there too. Take a moment to reflect on your achievements. What are you proud of yourself for? Give yourself the credit you deserve, even for small accomplishments! Write a list or journal your response to this question (and reference it when you need to be reminded of your awesomeness).
Now think about the past year and where you are now. What can you do better? Be willing to own your shortcomings without self deprecation. We can all always do better, but not if we refuse to admit our flaws or beat ourselves up for imperfection. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Be curious about your patterns and have faith in your ability to make positive shifts.
Rather than make resolutions, evoke positive transformation by identifying a purpose and designing a plan of action. In other words, think about what you aim to achieve and why it’s important to you. For example, if you want to quit smoking, it’s not enough to simply say you’re going to quit. Think about why you have that goal. Is it to live longer? To be a better role model? To feel more free? Why do those things matter to you? Peel back the layers to really get at the heart of your objective. This will help you connect with your purpose and increase your chances for accomplishment.
When you’re clear on your purpose, develop a plan of action. It’s not enough to sign up for a gym membership in order to lose weight. If your purpose, for example, is to have more energy and feel more confident–what action is likely to sustain that? Consider the details. If you enroll with a gym, which classes or equipment will you use? How often can you realistically get there? Would you have more fun getting fit outside of a gym, say at a dance class, hiking, or training for a race? Have you considered nutrition or medical conditions that may impact your efforts? Craft a design that matches your purpose and addresses your unique interests and abilities.
Be willing to course correct along the way. You may identify your goal then discover a different, more authentic one. You may design a plan that doesn’t work or needs tweaking. That’s ok! This is not failure, but rather information that helps you hone into fulfillment with more accuracy. Again, get rid of self doubt and approach challenges with curiosity and positive intention.
A simple way to stay connected to your purpose is to encompass it in a theme word for the year. Consider what you want 2019 to be about. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Don’t over think this. Trust your intuition and go with it. I encourage you to write your word on a piece of paper or create art about it and place it somewhere visible so you can stay connected to it throughout the year (wear it on a necklace, hang it from your rearview mirror, make it your password…). It helps to keep your purpose in the forefront of your mind. My word for last year was “allow.” Over the course of the year, there were several times when I stopped to ask myself, “am I allowing?” This helped me surrender control and be present with whatever was happening.
To recap: evoke meaningful transformation by ditching resolutions and connecting with a deeper purpose. Celebrate your accomplishments. Be honest with yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. Believe in your ability to evolve. Design a plan of action. Identify a theme word to help you stay connected.
Solid ground and a glorious sunrise are yours to enjoy this year, but you’ll have to swim a bit to get there (don’t expect someone to toss you a life preserver and pull you out). You are imperfect and amazing and wherever you land is exactly where you ought to be. So enjoy the journey and don’t forget to acknowledge yourself along the way.
Happy New Year!
You’re invited to share your purpose, plan, or theme for the year by commenting on this post. Let us know what 2019 will be about for you!
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.