Years ago one of the kids asked about New Year’s Revolutions. I thought it was cute and kind of accurate. As I thought on it again this year, I realised just how accurate it is. So often our New Year’s resolution are like a revolution in our lives. Out with the old, in with the new, get rid of everything we don’t like and we will live happily ever after in the new republic.
Except we don’t.
And then we do it again. Year after year. Decade after decade.
All we are doing is reinforcing a sense of failure and helplessness.
I gave up New Year’s resolutions quite a few years ago. I just couldn’t stand setting myself up for failure any more. My theme song when I tell myself I am going to do something goes something like F*ck you I won’t do what you told me! Honestly, the best way to get me not to do something, is for me to tell myself I should or it’s good for me.
So I had to get off that merry go round. I had to start tricking myself into doing life enhancing things. Obviously the life span of that was short – I’m pretty smart, and I know myself rather well!
So I started thinking about who I wanted to be, and what resources and actions I might need in order to be that person. Notice I used the word BE rather than BECOME. It’s kind of key here.
This morning is a great example. For nearly a year now, I have wanted to be a person who walked their dog when they got up in the morning. For nearly a year now, I have been a person who wanted to walk the dog in the morning. Today I am a person who walks the dog in the morning. What changed? What is my magic formula? Which affirmations did I use?
The only thing that changed was that I got up and walked the dog this morning.
That’s it. No magic, no preparations, or incantations. Today I got so sick of not being a person who walks their dog in the mornings, I decided to change it.
I’m not going to pretend I am now a person who walks their dog every morning. I’m not that attached to setting myself up for failure any more. I am now a person who knows walking their dog in the morning is as easy as getting up and walking the dog. I am pretty sure I can do this again. If I don’t do it one day, it will be because my higher value is not being a person who walks the dog in the morning. It might be because my higher value is resting because I am unwell, or getting somewhere early in the morning, or a myriad of other reasons that take precedence over being a person who walks the dog in the morning.
I have tried so many different ways to become a person who exercises regularly. I have had lots of pain and injury issues, so the process used to start with me being active. It would progress to me getting out of relationship with my body in the eagerness of being active, from there it would turn to injury. The final chapter would be me being too scared to return to that activity in case I injured myself.
I decided I wanted to become a person who could stay in relationship with body and keep my activity levels in line with my current physical capacity. This capacity is not static, so it meant checking in with my body as I did things. It meant taking rests. It meant realising it’s ok not to finish something I start if I get too tired or my body gets sore.
Living this way means I know that some days I will be a person who walks the dog in the morning, and some days I will be a person who knows today is not a dog walking day.
When we start to ponder the coming year, as we inevitably do around this time, rather than making a laundry list of all the things you are going to not do/do, what about instead pondering what kind of person you want to be.
If you want to be a person who eats healthily, that might mean first being a person who stops buying unhealthy food. You might also need to be a person who replaces the unhealthy snacks and foods with healthy ones. You might want to consider being a person who notices when they crave unhealthy foods or habits and figure out how to avoid those moments.
I stopped drinking alcohol about 18 months ago. It had just become a habit that wasn’t working for me anymore. I was sick of feeling subpar and having our social life revolve around alcohol. It was interesting watching when I craved a drink. It became really clear it was when I was very depleted and had pushed myself beyond the point of exhaustion. I knew then I needed to be a person who was aware of her available energy and did her best to not reach that point of exhaustion. If I had told myself my resolution was to stop drinking, my inner rebel would have had a huge tantrum and sabotaged within days. I know this, I’ve done it before. Deciding to be a person who didn’t drink alcohol, rather than stopping drinking is such a subtle difference, but for me it made all the difference.
The photo above is my breakfast this morning. Today I am a person who wanted to fuel her body well. Tomorrow, I may not be that person, but I know that I feel better when I do this, so I will be a person who fuels her body well more often than not.
The bottom line is – trying to stop or start things doesn’t seem to be very effective, instead focus on who you want to be. Give yourself grace for the days when you don’t want to be that person. It’s ok, we aren’t machines. We ebb and flow, we have days of high function and lower function.
There is no magic to making change – be the person who does the thing you want to do, then you will be the person doing the thing you want to do.