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January 5, 2016

A no-fail plan for keeping New Year’s resolutions

I’ve been hearing rumors around my gym for months about the influx of people who flood the floors every January, inspired by freshly made New Year’s resolutions. But don’t worry, everyone says. They’ll leave soon, and the cramped spaces will empty.

In other words, people resolve to get fit and then for some reason, abandon the initiative. People make all sorts of inspired goals, yet so many fail. But why?

We make resolutions to change with the idea that we’ll love ourselves more when we’re thinner, have a flatter belly or even when we’re more at peace. But how you travel is how you arrive, and the path isn’t very satisfying when traveling in a vehicle fueled by self-hate.

1. To keep your New Year’s resolutions, make them out of love.

Move because you love yourself. Eat healthy because you love yourself. Mediate because you love yourself. Make a resolution completely unrelated to how you look and instead focused on how you feel because, well, you love yourself.

Using self-hatred or the carrot of “I’ll love myself when,” to motivate ourselves just feels icky. This ickiness isn’t enough to propel us past the resistance of making a change, and so we quit.

Making resolutions out of love, on the other hand, feels good. It allows us to enjoy the process. Instead of calculating the number of calories we’ve burned, we meditate on the wonder of having arms and legs that move, lungs that fill our body with oxygen, and the amazingness of feeling our stress literally burn away.

2. Plan for resistance

Resistance is part of the game. Part of the growth process is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. We often see resistance as a sign that we’re on the wrong track, but in fact, resistance often signals we’re hot on the trail of our best selves.

So have a plan to stay on track. Know what commonly trips you up and plan for it. What will you tell yourself when it’s 6:30 p.m. at work and you’re still typing away? You know you’re running out of time to hit the gym, but oh! Just one more email to send.

Prepare for this moment. Tell yourself how important your health is and that if you lose that, you’ll lose everything. Be mindful of your resistance and mindful of why the change matters. And in the moment of resistance, recognize it and then choose from your higher self.

3. Transform mess-ups into tools for future growth

It’s okay. Everyone messes up. The good news is that every moment is a new moment. Even if you ate five cookies just now — darn leftovers! — you can stop before you eat a sixth. If you skipped a week of workouts, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you failed, you can just start again tomorrow.

When icky feelings arise, melt into them. 

Release your resistance, ignore the cruel thoughts attached to them, and feel those feelings of frustration and anger. Then, the next time you’re tempted to choose against yourself, remember that emotion and use its memory to inspire a better choice.

4. Take baby steps

We crave big, massive changes, but in truth, big changes happen from little changes made every day. If you’d love to meditate 10 minutes every day, but can’t seem to overcome the resistance, meditate for one minute every day. Get comfortable doing that, and then expand.

You’ll hear people say one minute of doing anything does nothing, but in fact, it does. It inspires us to action while bypassing the fear response. There’s a great book called One Small Step Can Change Your Life. It’s about the Japanese philosophy of kaizen, which refers to taking steady, small steps.

Changing your routine drastically often backfires, but if you can change one small thing and allow that success to propel your future success, you’ll make changes and love yourself the whole way.

5. Release the need to keep up when keeping up no longer feels good

Sometimes we make goals from one frame of mind, and then we grow and those goals no longer fit. Be honest about when a goal no longer reflects who you are today and release it. Don’t ever feel bad about releasing what no longer serves you, even if it was something you lived for yesterday.

Sometimes the best way to serve your highest self is to let it a goal go and make room for something better.

If you resolved to achieve a handstand, but then realize you’d rather focus on learning photography because it makes you happy, allow yourself to dive into your new hobby. Be content with practicing/exercising enough to keep your body healthy, but then take the rest of your time and invest it in other things.

Every day is a new day. Honor your endlessly evolving self, release definitions, and be free.

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Image by Blancalala via Flickr

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