Resolutions – More than Once a Year

It is a cliché in our culture to make a resolution as the new year arrives. We put a fork, so to speak, in the prior year, learning what we can from it, healing from, or celebrating it. Then as we “ring in the new”, we begin with a somewhat blank slate, a new set of opportunities, and of course a resolution to do some things differently.

I have two suggestions on this matter – one, let’s really commit to our resolutions, and two, why wait until New Year’s Eve to make a change?

But regarding the first suggestion, why do we so often not follow through? One reason resolutions are often forgotten two weeks (at most) into a new year is that we create our resolutions, all too often, in a heightened state of enthusiasm, excitement, that we do not maintain in our everyday lives. Our state of mind, our physiological state, these things matter. Ernest Rossi, collaborator and scribe to Milton Erickson, MD, said that all learning is state-dependent. I agree, though I’d say. thatmuch of our follow-through is as much so.

It’s not that we don’t intend to follow through on our resolutions, or that we’re undisciplined or lazy. Simply, in the heat of the moment, we elevate the importance of the action we are resolving to do. Though as our excitement dissipates to what for us is a normal and manageable level, we simply don’t feel the same. It’s far easier to follow through when we create environmental anchors that support that decision. Let’s say you decide to exercise for fifteen minutes a day, intending to increase that once your body acclimates. Instead of merely “resolving” to do so while very excited and enthusiastic, you may want to consider the likelihood that at the appointed time, you may not feel quite so enthusiastic.

You could make it easier on yourself by choosing a song or songs that motivate you, get you moving, and while listening to them, dancing, visualizing the change in your body, imagining your doctor’s excited response, urging you to “keep up the good work!” Create a mantra, something to psych you into action, something that works for you. I had one client who said “Each drop of sweat brings me closer to my goals!” as she began her exercise routine. And for her, being quite overweight, a little Pilate’s was all she could manage. Now she runs marathons, two years alter.

As many good feelings as you can create while listening to that music, do it. Stack the deck in favor of your success.

Then at the appointed time, you know what to do: play that song, repeat your mantra, get yourself in the same enthusiastic state of mind and body. That’s just one simple example, though it’s a common resolution that tends to, with the wrong strategy, fall through the cracks a few weeks or months into the new year. But just as exercise makes a muscle stronger, you’re going to begin getting really good at making and keeping your resolutions. Exercise that skill further by creating smaller, bite-sized resolutions that don’t require a full year to fulfill. Resolve to finish a project early, to make your partner feel really appreciated, to doing that task you dislike without having to be asked to do it!

Then begin to notice what’s happening: You are becoming a success machine! Small victories, small achievements, make bigger ones inevitable. That’s just the kind of person you’re becoming, after all.

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