January is the time of year when we like to look back on all the things we didn’t do for ourselves last year and resolve to do things differently this year. We tend to come up with these great big ideas, of I’m going to the gym everyday, or I’ll call my mom everyday! And we might have every intention of changing our behaviors, but as we are 19 days into the new year, you are likely realizing these big bold statements are hard to keep up with.
What happens when we can’t keep our New Year’s Resolutions?
We feel bad about ourselves, of course!
“Ugh, I failed yet again.”
“Can’t I just do one simple thing?”
“How hard is it to call my mother everyday?”
“Why can’t I just get my sh*t together and do this?”
“Why does it have to be so difficult?”
Any of these sound familiar???
We start to use our fancy, elaborate New Year’s Resolutions as just one more tool that we can use to beat ourselves up with. It becomes additional fuel for our egos to tell us what a screw up we are. It goes right back to playing the record track “I suck” in our heads.
Don’t get me wrong, setting intentions and having a vision for how you would like things to be different this year is not a bad idea. The bad idea comes from our choice in doing the unattainable and then using it as fuel to keep ourselves on the negative self-talk train.
I gave up making New Year’s Resolutions YEARS ago…actually, I don’t know if I ever really made them at all…the point is: I always knew they didn’t work. For me it’s really funny to go to the gym every January and see a fresh slew of people coming in, only to see by the third week in January, about half of them don’t go anymore. By early to mid-February, we are back to our regular group of people who go for themselves, not just for some New Year’s Resolution they didn’t keep yet again this year.
So, what does work?
Making smaller, more manageable changes that are truly achievable and doable; that’s what works. I also like calling them “setting intentions.”
Some examples of this are:
This year I set the intention to focus on loving myself;
This year I set the intention to practice gentleness with others;
This year I set the intention to be more mindful of my breathing on a daily basis.
See how much gentler and more achievable these feel? Notice how there is much more flexibility in how you do these actions?
Loving myself this year might look like going to the gym, eating healthier foods, and removing toxic relationships from my life. But, you don’t have to give any specific examples. You get to choose in any and every moment what feels loving toward yourself. This way, you don’t beat yourself up for not being able to stick with the very rigid: My New Year’s Resolution is to go to the gym 5 times per week.
I invite you to give this new way a try. I promise it will feel better. :)
To help you further, here is a quick little exercise that you can use to tap into what your intentions might be for this year:
Sit in a comfortable position, it’s best to sit with feet flat on the floor and your back upright supported in a chair or by cushions.
Exhale all of the air out of your lungs, then take in a fresh, nice new inhale, deep deep deep all the way down into your belly. Feel your belly expand and fill up. Then, very very very slowly and gently, exhale all the air from your belly out through your mouth. Take a total of about 3 of these deep breaths.
Then, gently place one hand on your heart and another hand on your belly and feel into your body. As you connect with your body in this way, ask yourself, “What intention do I wish to set for myself this year?” “What changes would I like to make this year?” “How do I want to show up for myself and others this year?” Then sit quietly as your mind and your body connect to give you your answers. Remain steady in your breathing as you do this, nice, gentle, deep inhales and exhales.
Once you have your answer, feel free to write this intention or intentions down and check in on them on a regular basis (Post-its on the mirror, the door, or next to the bed are great for this).
Now, go ahead and move into the rest of 2016 with this renewed energy, with a beautiful and doable intention, and allow this intention to help you live a more intentional and aligned life filled with gentleness, flow, and ease this year.