I am not a big fan of the New Year’s Resolution. Because I failed at keeping mine year after year, leaving me feeling quite depleted, I finally figured out resolutions are best avoided. I have New Years Guidelines instead.
Not that resolutions are all bad. They can be friendly reminders to keep us on track when we need an external nudge, kind of like the kiddy bumpers at the bowling alley. But the truth is, for most of us, by the end of January our resolutions are piled up like a bunch of bill payment notices, nagging at us for what we haven’t done, not inspiring us to do what we can.
Did you ever wonder who that rare creature is who is capable of living up to their New Year’s Resolutions? God bless you if you are one of them, but I’m about to reveal your secret.
Back when I was in college I took an industrial psychology class. We studied what makes some people higher achievers than others; those people who set a goal for themselves and actually accomplish it.
You might think that high achievers set big, fat goals but they don’t. Research shows that the most successful people chose flexible, mid-level goals. The bar they tend to choose requires a bit of a stretch, just outside their comfort zone, but well within their grasp.
That’s a life lesson for anyone who tends to feel like they are always coming up short, always a step behind, always failing at what they set out to achieve.
For example. Losing weight is a very popular New Year’s resolution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up short on that one. After countless tries, I finally learned that if I made the misguided promise to journal every-single-thing-I ate-day-after-day-from-now-on-forever-and-ever, by the end of January I’d have already messed up. The resulting inevitable failure would only make me want to eat more.
On the other hand…If I tell myself, ‘Today I will keep a food journal!’, I believe I can achieve that. The chances for success go way up, boosting my self-esteem. If I don’t keep a journal for one day, it’s only a one day blip, not a for-all-eternity failure. That could mean the difference between a slightly bruised self-esteem versus one that is deeply wounded.
Here’s another thing: My list of possible resolutions is endless. Keep a food journal, meditate daily, hang out with friends more, ride my horse, Annie, more, exercise more, blah blah blah. All that is terrific, but it misses the point. Which is to be grateful and content now, right now. After all, who we are and what we have right now is pretty fricking awesome!
And if “happy” is too far a reach (achievable goals, right?) then “satisfied” will do. If you’re like me and tend to postpone satisfaction with myself until I’ve lost a few pounds or can afford a trip to Europe, let’s “resolve” to cut it out. Because doing so is not only sad, it’s judgmental. And who are we to judge?
By giving ourselves permission to be content just for today, to be grateful for what we have now, our self-esteem will smile because it feels nurtured, relaxed, strong and resilient.
Happy New Year!