Guest article from MINES’ Wellness Provider Michelle Zellner
Cambridge dictionary states a resolution is “a promise to yourself to do or not do something” and January is the most popular month where many declare these promises to change habits and accomplish goals. Resolutions have been around for thousands of years, originally focused on pleasing the gods, rather than pleasing or bettering ourselves. As cultures and society have evolved, so too, has the concept of resolutions. Modern life has afforded many the luxuries of easy access to food, less need for physical exertion, ability to obtain material goods and opportunities to experience joy for joy’s sake. Relative to centuries ago, modern life is one of abundance, however, in terms of physical, mental and financial health, a life of ease and excess can put one in a precarious position. January to the rescue!
I’ve asked myself for years, ‘what is so special about January?’, even while following the herd in making said promises. There is something psychologically enticing about waiting to start fresh, on a symbolic fresh start, be it on Monday, the first of the month, or the beginning of a new year. It not only provides a target for jumping on board, but also allows us to put off something we might not be super excited about doing. It gives us an opportunity for one last act of rebellion or defiance before we resolve to get serious about tackling a challenge.
And yet, few are successful at fulfilling the promises they make. Some have gone down the same path for years and years, only to finally give up on making resolutions. The perspective is “why bother if they aren’t going to come true anyway” as if there is a magical property of simply making a promise. This was where I eventually found myself, and for a span of time simply shrugged of the whole resolution thing, reverting to an eye roll when the topic came around for discussion.
Fast forward a few years where I faced the ugly truth that unless I got a grip on some of my habits and ways about life, my future self would be living with many regrets. I took a step back to analyze WHY I wasn’t successful in following through on these promises that I truly believed in. I really did want to eat better, lose weight, and get along with my sister. There were activities and bucket-list experiences I whole-heartedly wanted to check off. WHY had these things not yet happened for me? While each particular goal has its unique answer, there was a common theme. I had simply not taken the time to set myself up for success. This shift of perspective, rewriting the failure narrative, and a new approach was just what I needed.
The first step to my resolution solution is to clarify exactly what it is I am wanting to achieve. Eat better, lose weight, have a better relationship with my sister—these are all vague and ambiguous. Specifics make it easy to highlight whether or not I am setting a realistic expectation and gives me a tangible result to track and measure. It also carves a path for reflection to see what is and isn’t working.
The next step is to ask myself WHY? Why do I want to eat better, lose weight, get along with my sister, run a marathon, visit my friend Sara, etc? Whether behavior change, accomplishing a goal or checking off a bucket-list experience, there should be a good reason why you want to do that. If you don’t have a strong, personally meaningful motivator, the likelihood you are going to make the hard choices necessary is pretty slim.
Once I’ve determined my WHY, I’ll need to identify potential obstacles that will prevent me from following through on the actions. When I reflected upon my past attempts at behavior change, this was the step I failed to recognize. If I didn’t account for an obstacle and figure out a strategy around it, I would hit the wall and turn around—ie, I failed. Sometimes there are multiple obstacles, requiring multiple strategies. Uncovering these is part of the discovery and growth process and will enhance self-awareness that will prove useful in the future!
I realized a major obstacle to achieving my goals was my state of mind. My younger self was inundated with limiting beliefs and ingrained internal narratives and gravitated toward all-or-nothing tendencies. These are roadblocks to success and changing my mind was imperative. Adopting a growth mindset, challenging the inner chatter and combating the critic are foundational elements for growth and crucial to keep you moving forward on the journey. While there are a few things that require an all-or-nothing approach, for many habits we are attempting to change, this approach will actually lead you nowhere fast.
Another component of my solution is to ask for help and support. Change is hard. Conquering challenges is hard. Doing this alone is hard. Humans are pack animals, designed to be guided, held accountable and cheered. To go down the road alone is not only not necessary, but not normal! Support can look a variety of ways: a best friend, a like-minded person, a coach, a group focused on similar goals. The key is SOMEONE should know what it is you are trying to accomplish and how they can support you in that endeavor.
With all of these concepts in place, I still felt a bit squishy when I would hear the word “resolution”. That word feels rigid–you either kept the promise or you didn’t. There is no room for grey, for better than, for closer than I was before. Life is not rigid, few things are black OR white, and many things we strive for are an ongoing process.
Resolution tends to focus on a final outcome, and while we aim to achieve these results, we are actually only in charge of our behaviors. And that was my lightbulb moment! If I shift my energy to what I am in control of, engage in behaviors necessary to reach an outcome, I’ll most likely reach the outcome. Or get closer to it. Or learn a lot about myself along the way, making me better than I was before. Any which way it goes, I cannot fail.
So rather than setting resolutions, I set my intentions, aligning them with my priorities, values and core guiding principles. I declare how I intend to spend my time, energy and money and outline the choices I intend to make. Navigating my own course, diligently implementing the strategies to follow through, is empowering and inspiring. Enjoying the benefits of hard work is satisfying and motivating. This triggers an attitude of curiosity, a perpetual appetite for challenge and desire to thrive.
Every now and then I don’t even bother waiting until January to get started.
To your wellbeing,
The MINES Team
Content provided by:
Michelle Zellner, Owner Better Beings/Creator of the YOU Revolution, Health and Happiness Strategist, Author/Public Speaker/Corporate Wellness Trainer