I must admit, I'm a little obsessed with resolutions. As you can tell. I love them. It is so fun to me to try to be better.
Before we get started, let's just take a minute and enjoy those little faces. With purple bars on each side because I'm challenged.
First, I must provide full disclosure on my resolutions for last month. As in, "negatory my good buddy." As in, picture a big fat "X," while imagining a loud obnoxious buzzer in the background. As in, the rubbish heap. You get the picture. I got off to a great start (for, like, a few days), then didn't follow through at all! In my defense, it was a crazy month around here. Even though it was a really good month. It was just bad for resolutions. The one bright light in the entire month was one slight thing I did differently: changing my language to make sure that I was making requests of my children rather than telling them to do something. I was amazed at the results I got from that small little change (and I hadn't even noticed that I wasn't "requesting" before! Interesting).
I'm still working on some resolutions for the year and for the month, and I hope to let you know what they are within the next few days.
In the meantime, I have had some thoughts on this resolution making process we go through every year. Thanks for indulging my crazy thoughts so often around here.
First, I've been thinking about the kind of mindset that makes for successful resolutions. I think a great place to start to illustrate this might be the "diet" principle, because let's face it, most of us are thinking about our diets right now, especially after all the crap we ate over the holidays. If you aren't, you are amazing, and probably not quite human. Just kidding.
I knew a woman in Dallas named Rowena who went on a diet every Monday, and was usually off the wagon by Wednesday. She refused to call it a diet because she said that diets (DIE-it), kill you, so she called it a live-it. I loved that dear lady. She made me laugh.
But all joking aside, what are your thoughts when you prepare to change your eating habits? Do you get anxiety? Do you feel the urge to squeeze in all sorts of "forbidden" foods before the great day comes? Then the minute your diet starts, do you feel deprived, grumpy, ascetic? Eyeing every sprinkle-topped donut with hideous envy?
I've decided the kind of attitude that precedes this type of resolution sets a person off for failure before they've even started. Because, as I look into myself, the number one thing that has to happen before I can be successful in any resolution is a change of heart. When I start with a changed heart, when sincere regret for the destruction a certain habit wreaks on my life makes me want to do better, and that reminder comes from deep within myself that I really do want to change (and not just sorry that I have to take the consequence), that is when I'm successful. If I am wanting to cram a dozen donuts down on New Year's Eve, then my heart hasn't really changed and my resolution is superficial, making it much harder to change.
It is easier to sustain changes that really come from within, even if it takes a while to discipline the outer beast. If I know I'd like to eat less sweets, but I fall for the Jedi-mind waves said donut is sending me, it is not the end of the world. Instead of going off and eating everything in sight because I have now failed in my good diet quest (I have been known to do this), I'd like to feel some remorse and move on and try again to eat healthier over the long term. (and I personally lose more weight when nothing is "forbidden"-- for me it raises my stress levels, which actually makes it harder for me to lose weight, see here. Are you an abstainer or a moderator? See here)
This isn't always true. Sometimes changing my behavior precipitates a change of heart. As in, eating more fruits and vegetables makes me feel so healthy and good that I look upon said delectable pastries with (mild) disgust. I have indeed noticed that exercising makes me crave healthier foods and dampens my appetite (I know this isn't true for everyone). Happened to you too?
So as I prepare to make my resolutions for 2013 (how about "don't procrastinate"?), I've been keeping this in mind. That I need to look deep inside for a change of heart first.
A couple more things I've learned from my project so far: measurable goals. Concrete goals (instead of lose weight, focus on something specific-- exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes, for example). Don't try to conquer the world all at once (I struggle with this one). I love the idea of doing a resolution every month, instead of falling off the wagon three weeks into January and then waiting until the next year to try again. It is much easier to replace a bad habit with a good one than it is to simply remove a bad habit. The trying to be better is often more satisfying than the actual attainment of said goals. The resolutions that have meant the most to me have involved people-- doing something to make their lives happier in some small way.
What do you think? Does having a change of heart help you keep resolutions? Or does actually performing a resolution help you have a change of heart?
I loved these two radio shows to get in the mood for resolution making: 1) on the "Myths of Happiness" and 2) "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick." See here for 5 questions to ask yourself about your resolutions, from The Happiness Project's Gretchen Rubin.