I know I am not the only one who has fallen short of achieving a well-intended New Year’s resolution. By March I am often burned out, distracted and moving on from what I swore would be a life-changing commitment. Discouraged from this 3-month pattern of let down, I decided to finally make a change and not only make more sustainable resolutions, but also any life goals throughout the year. So with years of personal experience to pull from, some extensive self-reflection and a few (okay, many!) self-help books, I discovered the behavior that was holding me back. When I was rigid and unexamined, my resolutions were less-meaningful and less-effective.
I also noticed a different, more supportive pattern. The resolutions I got really, really clear on – the ones I spent time questioning, understanding, evaluating – made positive differences in my life and wellbeing. I have learned that resolutions are much more than a declaration, they are an open invitation to self-inquiry.
The pattern of inquiry has evolved this like:
First, I understand my “why” and use it as the catalyst for action. Then, I develop a plan knowing that with passion comes some sort of resistance. Therefore, each new pursuit offers me an opportunity to question my resistance and work to release those emotions, feelings and preconceived beliefs. I have also discovered that important resolutions require me to lean into a special type of vulnerability – asking for help and trusting others. And lastly, I introduce the new practice into my life and diligently seek new rituals and positive behavior patterns. The largest lesson I have learned over and over: do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got. So if I want a change, a shift, I have to intentionally do things differently!
My most life-affirming and altering goals, intentions and resolutions have come from knowing the answers to the following 5 questions. These questions are meant to be re-used as often as you feel necessary. So use them with every resolution on your list, then rinse and repeat as needed! Using an example resolution of ‘I want to meditate 20 minutes a day,’ let’s run through the 5 questions to get a better understanding of how this works.
Why do I want to meditate 20 minutes a day?
What do you want to get out of your daily meditation: Relaxation? Grounding? Spiritual Connection? Identify what you’re looking to cultivate so you can use it as motivation when you’re discouraged. When you begin to struggle with your meditation practice, focus on the spiritual connection you’re looking to generate from your consistent practice, instead of the 20 minutes.
Meet yourself where you’re at today.
If your goal is to meditate 20 minutes a day and you’re currently not meditating at all, create an incremental plan to work-up to your end goal of 20 minutes. Think of your resolutions like training for a marathon, you have to build up strength, stability and stamina to cross the finish line. Similarly, it will be very challenging for you to jump into a 20 minute meditation without some practice first.
Create a plan for working up to your goal. Maybe start with meditating for 5 minutes a day, then create a plan for increasing the length of time. Decide, in advance, when and where you’ll meditate. You may decide that the location and time will regularly change and that’s okay as long as it’s part of your plan and you feel good about your decision. Also, it’s important to be mindful of what known life events are coming up – travel, weddings, babies, new job, etc. – and instead of letting those events be a distraction, schedule them in.
Recognize the resistance that surfaces.
Okay, now you know your ‘why’ and your ‘plan’. So, if you’re anything like me, it’s inevitable you’ll begin to experience some negative internal dialogue. Your thoughts may sound like this: “Ugh, who am I to mediate? It’s not like I am going to become a monk… I should be spending this time doing x, y,z!” or “I’ll never be able to sit still that long, why am I even trying? What’s the point?”
That first thought comes from a place of unworthiness and the second thought is seething in insecurity. Therefore, what can you do to release your feelings of unworthiness and insecurity? There are so many tools out there – a great place to begin is understanding your response to these questions:
Journal about it. Come back to these questions often. Hold space for these darker areas of your life. Identify strategies for releasing negative patterns. And create space for new behaviors and experiences by letting go of old, unsupportive habits and practices.
Ask for help and take it.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, setting an impactful intention requires a special type of vulnerability – reaching out to your support system and allow them to support you. Sharing is so powerful, so identify your people who you want to share with. Who can you openly and honestly share your intention? Who can uplift you and hold you accountable to your goal? You may already have these people in your life, maybe you have to seek them out. Whatever you have to do, find people who will continually encourage you!
Our actions are not insular, even a small change in behavior can dramatically shift our experience in the world.
You may not feel it right away, but I promise those preliminary 5 minutes are making a big impact! What types of activities can you prioritize to support your goal of meditating for 20 minutes a day: exercise, yoga, journaling, attending a guiding meditation, time in nature? Try something new or try something old from a new lens.
Again, resolutions are not a declaration, they’re an inquiry. Get curious! And good luck in the new year.
Have a sharable tip for how you commit to your resolutions? Share below!