I recently read that as few as 8% of us manage to keep their New Year's resolutions.
And guess what, I am not, and have never been, in that 8%. Secret revealed.
I have never been a big fan of New Year's resolutions to be honest, but they mean even less to me since I practice mindfulness regularly. I haven't made a single New Year's resolution since 2007, and well, I think I'm doing ok...!
So here are a few reasons, based on my own experience, of why I think resolutions don't work, and how mindfulness can help you instead.
1. A New Year's resolution can quickly become something else on our to-do list
The problem with New Year's resolutions is that they are so engrained in our culture that we may feel as though we ought to have them. Anything that has a 'should' involved in it is very likely to fail, because it feels to us like an obligation, another added item on our already long to-do list, rather than something that our heart longs for, and that we actually enjoy doing.
Practicing mindfulness, I gained more knowledge about what really motivates me (i.e. not making resolutions) and gained the confidence to say to my colleagues on the first week of January, when they asked me what my resolutions were, that I didn't have any, that this is not how I best function. I am much more of an intuitive type, and I found that having long to-do lists and resolutions made me feel tense, rigid and not very free.
I believe this might be the case for many of us...
2. Our resolutions can come from the wrong place
I remember, back when I made resolutions, having 'loosing weight' as one of them pretty much every year. So I'd start running 3 times a week in January...and stopped a few weeks later. Looking back, this resolution came from fear - fear of looking a certain way if I didn't loose weight - rather than love. I consciously wanted to lose weight, but my subconscious (seat of very deep emotions such as fear of change), wasn't aligned. I wanted to move away from something, rather than move towards something. The resolution became a stick to beat myself with if I didn't strictly follow my new military-like health plan, and there wasn't much kindness in it. Hence I gave up after a while.
Practicing mindfulness allowed me to tune into my body, where emotions are stored, and become aware of my emotions. I spent some time being with the fear (not a very pleasant experience to start with, I give you that), feel it and observe it - and it wasn't that scary anymore. I didn't need to act on it, I could just let it come and go.
Instead, being king to ourselves could be the key to progress. There are many studies showing how the kinder we are to ourselves the happier and more successful we become.
One of the practices I teach on my courses (and that I do myself every day), the kindness meditation, allows us to positively rewire our thoughts and emotions.
In my experience, it allowed me to feel into who I want to become (moving towards), rather than who I didn't want to be (moving away), which makes new experiences more enjoyable and less of an obligation.
3. What's your intention?
So rather than resolutions, I invite you to think of your intentions, the meaning behind your wishes.
My intention for 2016 was to be open to transformation & growth, so bearing that in mind I regularly asked myself 'is this allowing me to open to transformation' or 'will this allow me to grow?' when faced with a decision to make. I found it very helpful, especially in terms of counteracting limiting beliefs such as 'I don't know how to do this', 'I can't do that' etc.
If it would allow me to grow, then I'd give it a shot.
During the year, I quit my job and developed a full-time coaching & mindfulness practice. This wasn't a goal, nor was it a New Year's resolution. It didn't happen because I wanted to make it happen in 2016 or make a living out of what I love doing, it happened because I was open to the opportunity, I believed it would allow me to grow, and I believed it would transform those around me. It was about meaning, not outcome.
I learnt more in 2016 than in the 3 previous years combined. For that, I had to be open to put myself out of my comfort zone on a regular basis, because no matter the outcome, I knew that I would grow.
My intention for 2017 is to let go. By that, I mean to trust and let myself be guided by my intuition. Being receptive and open, rather than push forward. Let go of expectations or anything I am holding too tight on, and make space for opportunities to arise.
Setting an intention is therefore about the energy we put behind our actions, not the actions themselves.
As with previous years, I can trust that with the right energy & intention, things will happen in their own time.
If they don't happen in 2017, I'll have my mindfulness practice to help me cultivate patience ;)
So, what's your intention? I'd love to find out!