The Most Important Resolution You'll Make

In the weeks preceding New Years, I often find myself dismissing the idea of resolutions, and insisting that I’m simply going to “resolve to continue the momentum of this year.” My existential, zen-like perspective often crumbles by the week in between the holidays and New Years Eve when I whole heartedly embrace any excuse to finish the last of the fudge. “You know what, I’m going to give P90x another shot starting next week” [said as I unwrap the leftover cheese platter.]

Basically, I always say I’m not going to make resolutions… and I always do. And most of the time I’m there with everyone else by mid-February calculating how much more it would cost to just cancel the membership versus letting it lapse. 

Depending on whose study you look at, all agree that a vast majority of the time (a daunting 78% to 92% of the time) New Year's resolutions are a complete bust. Articles like the one published through Forbes preach how to make resolutions by keeping it simple and/or “believing it enough”, while some Psychologically-based research suggests just not making them at all to avoid setting yourself up for failure.

If you’re part of the majority of us that feels warmth and giddiness at the promise of change and a “new slate”, we continue (despite all evidence) to resolve to resolve.

There are plenty of “tips” for how to create and implement realistic resolutions, but the core of whether or not this will be “your year” lies in a deeper place; Self Compassion.

Practicing Self Compassion while creating your goals can be tricky. It’s easy to think of all the things we can’t stand about our appearance, our lives, our environment. Very often when thinking of “goals” or resolutions that’s where we default to; what went wrong or what we want to get rid of. “I want to lose these last 10 lbs”… “I want to quit smoking”… “I want to avoid dairy.”

Using Compassion to Reframe Your Goals

When shifting to a more compassionate approach, instead of looking at the things we want to stop, we look at the things we want to start. Shift the focus by looking at your life and take some time to evaluate where you would like to be. Don’t focus on what you want to get rid of, focus on what you want to gain. This can seem abstract (or even a bit saccharine), but I assure you it’s not. Shifting how you talk about your goals sets actual goals in motion as opposed to a barrage of self deprecation.

Put simply, change these goals to be in the positive tense, and focus on what you can actively do. For example, turn “I want to avoid dairy” to something that you’d like to do, such as “I will find dairy alternatives.” (Not my goal, but it is noble.) Turn “I want to quit smoking” to “I will begin taking walks or learn meditation techniques to use during my lunch break.”

Embrace Your Screw-ups… Ahead of Time

The second, and most important aspect of bringing compassion into your resolutions is knowing that you’re human. You will fall, you will stumble, you will sleep in some days instead of making it to that morning Yoga class. Your homemade organic lunches will include Oreos, and you might take a few drags from your coworkers cigarette on February 8th. Own it, embrace it, it very well might happen. And know what? That’s ok.

Some people view this as making excuses or enabling poor behavior. However, it’s simply being realistic… and a little kind. The problem with resolution setting, or anything you decide to do 100% is that there’s often no room for anything less than perfection… and no one is perfect. When we “mess up” (or simply “be human”), there’s a tendency to throw out the resolution altogether. The reality is that the feelings of self-defeat or blame are always far worse than skipping a day at the gym or not following through with that trip you wanted to plan.

The slippery slope we fall into is that when we stray a bit from our goals, we beat ourselves up. We throw up our hands, realized we “ruined” our plan, and in enters self-blame, criticism, and defeat. Negative beliefs (often learned in early childhood when we internalize everything) start to build up and rear their ugly heads, and before we know it, thoughts of “I’m an idiot”… “I can’t believe I did that”… “I never stick with anything” have made themselves at home in our minds. If self esteem is at a low point, chances are you’re not going to do something nice for yourself. But rather, there’s a chance you’ll fall deeper into old routines, old harmful coping skills, and you’re left feeling worse than when you started.

Bringing some Self Compassion into the mix before you start your plan allows yourself the cushion of knowing that you may slip up and that’s ok. When— I mean if, you do, remember that it’s all part of the cycle of change. In the Mental Health world and in the Recovery process, it’s understood that relapsing is often a part of the cycle of change. It’s often taught that “relapse isn’t falling backwards, it’s falling forward.” Even if you slip up on January 3rd, know that you’ve already set things in motion and you’re further ahead in your plan than where you were December 31st.

Kindness and Self Care aren’t Luxuries

Just as we take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves. As you enter the New Year, resolve to do something kind for yourself. A huge aspect of what we try to convey at ENODIA is that Self Care is a necessity. You can’t fill everyone else’s glass unless you fill your pitcher first. Positive reinforcement is proven to work better than negative reinforcement in the long run. That means that rewarding yourself with a pampering activity or some self care after accomplishing a goal is the most effective way to ensure you’ll keep the momentum. 

So as we approach the New Year, practice the same level of kindness you would toward your children, toward your family, and those important to you. Think about what it will look like when you attain what you’d like to see for yourself, and go from there. This isn’t about beating yourself up for 2014, it’s about building yourself in the year to come.

Looking for a way to calm your mind and practice some self care after the holiday rush? We’re right there with you. Check out ENODIA Center’s Studio Classes for Relaxation and Stress Management. When you register for a class throughout the month of January, use code RESOLVE and receive 25% off all classes to help support your New Years Resolutions.

Lauren Debiak