As everything winds down for the holiday season and people start thinking of their New Year resolutions, I want to shift your thinking about how you go about setting goals and resolutions. Because the old way ain’t workin’. Studies show that fewer than 8% of people who set New Year resolutions actually achieve it.
But there is a better way!
I am reminded of the power of asking simple questions — or perhaps the power isn’t in a simple question, but in our willingness to sit with them and really think about where we are at in our lives and how we got here.
Questions are different than new year resolutions. A resolution is a result you seek, such as “I want to pay off my debt,” or “I want to save more toward retirement.” The thing is, new year resolutions don’t have any juice unless you understand how the resolution attaches to your thinking about the status quo.
If you’re ready to try something new this year, I’ve created an Awesome 2017 Goals Planner you can download to get started — just click here to grab it for free.
Letting go through questioning
Socrates is credited with developing the method of questioning (oneself and others) in order to stimulate critical thinking and draw out ideas and underlying presumptions. Here are some questions that some of my clients have found helpful as we close out the year:
- What worked for you and what did you love about the past year?
- What didn’t work and what frustrated you this past year?
- What do you see as some recurring themes in your life, either with money, people or otherwise?
- How did your parents behave around these issues that frustrate you? What do you like and hate about what they did or didn’t do?
- Are you ready to let go of past disappointments and build a new paradigm for yourself?
- What is one short-term goal you have around your key frustrations?
- What would you like to see or feel change in the new year?
As you ask yourself these questions — either alone or with a partner — keep questioning until you get past the surface answers. You may be surprised at what lies beneath.
A huge part of changing your dynamic around money (or anything, really) is letting go of the past and forgiving yourself—and others—for not being perfect.
Letting go needs to be a gentle act (hence the forgiveness). We can’t beat ourselves up for not letting go sooner! We let go when we are ready to let go. But consciously asking yourself, “Am I ready to let go?” is a wonderful energetic shift to initiate the process.
Once you’re ready to let go of the old ways of doing and thinking, your decisions to move forward are energized with different motivations – and new year resolutions become more meaningful.
Example of the process
I find it’s useful to apply these questions individually to each area of your life—so you might do it for money, career, relationships, health, etc. I did this process recently for my health, an aspect of myself that has frustrated me for several years. Here’s an example of an old way of thinking—or my action-oriented, resolution-based way of setting goals:
I really feel unattractive and unhealthy when I am overweight, so I resolve to lose weight to get back into my old clothes. I’ll do this by cutting calories and exercising more. (and then I would set a schedule and sample menu to stick to).
This is short term, new year resolutions type thinking based on a specific external result (fitting into old clothes). This might work for some people, but not me! When I talk about feeling unhealthy and unattractive, there is shame there—and I have found that when I am feeling shameful about something, I rarely put myself out there. Shame limits your thinking. So this year about halfway through, I decided that instead of thinking about how to create “less” of me, I would instead focus on how to bring “more” life into my health.
So here’s my process on health and weight loss this year:
One thing I love about this past year was that I joined an exercise community and have been exercising consistently! What frustrated me before this was I tried to lose weight through deprivation—basically trying to “fix” myself before putting myself out there, which felt isolating. In the past when I have failed to lose weight, I have blamed my broken ankle, adrenal and thyroid issues. My family has always been very tied to the scale and judgmental about eating. My family is either ”being good” or “being bad” when it comes to food.
This year, I have been able to let go of a lot of food judgment and notice positive changes in my body regardless of what I eat. I’m also ready to let go of this idea that I can’t have optimum health if I have thyroid and adrenal issues—I have made a lot of progress already by being careful/mindful about how hard I push myself. I am ready to continue this shift into the new year—one of healthy choices and awareness around the connection between what I eat, how I move and how I feel. And there is no question I’ll continue on with my exercise and supportive community and my short term goal is to find new ways for me to incorporate healthy eating without feeling the “good/bad” triggers going off. Also, to start weighing myself again without judging myself, so I can better understand the interaction between eating and exercise in this new reality.
You get the idea. When you’re making a huge shift from the way you’re accustomed to doing things—even when the old way didn’t really work—you need to go slow. For me, I need to remember that in the grand scheme of things, I am healthier than I was a year ago, regardless of my current weight. And that even without trying too hard, I make healthy food choices. So next year is about building on current success.
Here’s the shift I needed:
I forgive my parents for thinking that staying healthy is a struggle and that such a thing exists as “good” and “bad” food. I now have compassion for their world view but also know it doesn’t need to be mine. It is SO difficult to find joy and peace when one has so much judgment for themselves. And I forgive myself for operating from a place of fear and shame. I have found so much joy already simply by STARTING to become healthy and taking it day by day and enjoying the process. I choose to take back my power now and create a new health paradigm for myself: building health is an ongoing process, and when I surround myself with a loving, supportive community of like-minded people, I easily make healthy choices for my mind, body and spirit. I may not do this perfectly, but if I see everything as a trend, then only incremental improvement counts, versus short-term fixes or hiccups. There is no judgment, just what is.
The reason you need to let go first is that you can’t build a new paradigm on shame, resentment and regret. It only works with love, acceptance and compassion. My guess is, most people could use more of these things in their lives. You can start by giving it to yourself.
Replace “food” with “money” in my example and plenty of people will see something they recognize — but you’ll need to ask your own questions to make your own shift.
Next Steps for your New Year Resolutions…
- Set aside an hour or so to think. I have found that especially during this busy season, I actually had to block out time on my schedule to review my year.
- During your session, meditate and journal on the questions. Although I help people with money, that might not be the thing that activates you about the past year. Mine was health, yours might be a relationship.
- Let your paradigms inspire you. With my paradigm, I might be inspired to take a healthy cooking class or revamp my weekly menus. These are actions most people call new year resolutions, but for me, they are simply behaviors contributing toward a trend. Continue to revisit your paradigm to keep yourself inspired about action—don’t get locked into the behavior change without understanding how it fits in compassionately.
- Download the 2019 Awesome Goals Planner to get a head start on defining your goals once you’ve completed your questioning!
And if you are looking for an in-depth, comprehensive guide to make meaningful changes and help you end the year on a high note, you can read more here.
Where do you want a paradigm shift next year?