Four tips the books don’t give you on working with new year’s resolutions.
by Pat Matthews
Another New Year, another New Year's resolution. How well did your last year's resolution turn out? Statistics show that it is as rare as a red-nosed reindeer for a resolution to work itself out as originally intended. About 40% of all resolutions never come to pass, and the other 60% are fudged or modified by the maker.
We can blame all the excitement about New Year's resolutions on the Babylonians, the Romans and the Catholic Church. The Babylonians got us started by spending 11 days at the beginning of each year drinking out the old and dancing in the new. The Romans took it a step further by placing the likeness of their mythical two-faced god, Janus, at the beginning of their calendar. He represented resolution and forgiveness and was used symbolically during their New Year revelry as a guide to looking back over the last year and looking forward to a better year ahead. Later, the Catholic Church took a dim view of all this partying and even changed the date of the New Year to December 25, the date we still celebrate as Christmas. January 1 became the Feast Day of Christ's circumcision (a scene I, for one, have never seen depicted in a stained glass window).
Today our holiday hoopla starts at Halloween and runs through the final play of our favorite bowl game on January 1. We gather with family and friends to party, play and renew our spiritual convictions during this time of year. In the midst of all this fun and frolic, people aspire to begin the New Year with a clean slate. This commitment to change, for whatever reason, is commendable. With some new perspective, we may be able to increase our odds of success.
Avoid the pitfalls
Most of us have experienced the frustration of the New Year's resolution blues. The pattern goes like this: we set a goal, work at it a little bit, get annoyed for ever deciding to change something about ourselves, give up, feel guilty about it for a while, and then make some internal decision that we've changed enough. And we get on with life.
Many of you have read one or more of the thousands of books written to help you set goals, overcome obstacles, achieve success, and reap your new rewards. Here are some of the ideas represented:
• Be reasonable and realistic, aim low to avoid disappointing yourself.
• Make one resolution, not 10, so you can maintain focus.
• Write your goal down. One tradition states that for absolute success you must write your New Year's resolution on a piece of white paper, wrap it in an old kitchen towel and then burn it.
• Tell (only) supportive friends and family about your resolution so they can help you along the way.
• Keep a diary or notebook to record your success and keep track of setbacks.
• Visualize yourself achieving your goal.
• Encourage yourself about how well you are doing. Hang motivating pictures or notes on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
• Wait until spring, when the stress of the holidays is over, to act on your resolution.
• If all else fails, seek help from an expert. If you're serious, nothing can stop you.
These are all good, reasonable ideas, but there are three things I would add to set yourself up for a more successful outcome this year.
• Don't be afraid of
your emotional resistance
Being honest, objective, and looking at all sides of ourselves is not easy or fun, but it is a key component to success. Who are you, really? Are you a clear-cut decision maker? Maybe you're a little or a lot lazy? Do you get angry when someone suggests something new to you? Does dependency play a role in your relationships? Are you honest or is bending the truth just part of the fabric of your life? Get down and dirty with yourself. You can't change what you can't see, and trying to change an illusion of yourself into something else just leads to a different illusion. If you want to stop smoking or clear up your financial mess, you have to be honest enough to see the truth of who you are and compassionate enough to forgive your own mistakes. Use your emotions, both positive and negative, to propel you forward into being the person you want to be.
• Use stress
to fuel the change
If you're like most people, deadlines and stress often work with you instead of against you.
When the stakes are high enough, we often open up our mind to new thoughts and ways of being. When the pressure is off, it is difficult for some to get the brain-and the body-up and running.
I find that, in times of stress, people often find the solution to their problems while driving or taking a shower or simply staring out the window at the snow falling.
Stress motivates, but it's in the calm moments that the answers are found. Pay attention to your dreams, listen to your own intuition. You have been making split-second adjustments and thinking on your feet pretty much all of your life. You already know how to cause as well as adjust to change. The trick is to use these skills to help you change your eating habits or exercise more. Instead of working hard to get out of work, work smart by being honest with yourself. You can change those things that you honestly see. Making excuses is the lazy man's lie, and the lie diffuses the stress that can propel us into change.
• Give yourself the
New Year's gift of time
By all means use the first of the year as a date to mark the beginning of your change. You need to start somewhere. Just realize that change lives in its own time zone. It doesn't live here with us mere mortals, attached to a calendar or a clock. It's off the planet and happens when you and the change you are making come together and shine, making the path to success visible and viable. You cannot predict with accuracy the exact day and place that you will "get it" and stop doing whatever has been holding you back. But the time will come of its own accord when the behaviors of your life line up with the thing you are trying to achieve. So if your change doesn't walk in the door on January 1, you should make sure that you leave the door open.
Be healthy, be happy, be loved in the New Year.
Pat Matthews is a clairvoyant, meditation teacher and acupuncturist liing in the St. George area. She will give a talk on "Predicting Your Own New Year" at the Golden Braid on Jan. 24, and be available for readings at One World Cafe Jan. 26-27. firstname.lastname@example.org.