New Year's Resolutions or Recognitions?

Mama at The Liberated Kitchen

Mama with some home-canned goodness

Think on the word for a minute: resolve. It’s a rigid word, and implies finality, conclusion, force of will. But our New Year’s resolutions, at their core, are about the better person we hope to be.

Making sustainable changes to how we live and who we are is not about having all the answers settled and a will of steel. Instead, it’s about recognizing the patterns in our lives, and rewriting them.

It’s a cliche that New Year’s resolutions never stick, and with good reason. We imagine feeling better, looking better, having more time and money, being more interesting, smarter, or more appreciated. If we’re clever about it, we’ll turn those general aims into a few specific goals and achieve them. So instead of resolving to excersize more, you might resolve to go to the gym with a friend for an hour every Thursday. Or instead of resolving to get out of debt, you might plan to put 10% of your earnings to your credit card every month. In general, these kinds of resolutions are much more successful.

But achieving goals set this way still depends on one thing: your resolve. When we encounter the obstacles that got in our way before, we take that as a sign that we’ll never succeed. Then our resolve wavers, and we beat ourselves up and consider it a failure.

Adding the element of recognition can change all that. Recognition is the act of reinventing how we think about things. It is acknowledgment of truths we’d seen before, but hadn’t accepted. Once we recognize our past stumbling blocks, we can prepare ourselves to overcome them.

At the New Year (and on my birthday), I like to look at what I’ve tried to accomplish, think about who I want to be, and face the facts about what I’ve let hold me back. Usually, when I haven’t reached a goal it turns out I’ve been standing in my own way.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is my goal? (Make it S.M.A.R.T. and write it down!)
  • What feeling do I hope to get from it?
  • Have I tried to get this feeling or reach this goal in the past?
  • What happened? Why didn’t I reach the goal or get the feeling? or, if I haven’t tried: What has stopped me from trying for this goal or feeling so far?

This is where it gets good. Hopefully you’ve identified an obstacle or two. If not, just go for it, and when a challenge comes up continue with the process. Here’s what to do next:

  • Write out the obstacle.
  • Write out how you will recognize this pattern starting again.
  • Acknowledge your typical response to the obstacle. What works about it? What doesn’t? Be honest!
  • Think about how the future version of yourself (who has already reached the goal and was not stopped by this challenge) would see the obstacle and respond to it. This becomes your plan of action. Write it down – the thoughts to think, the things to say, the things to do.

Next up, find some support. A friend who lives nearby is great, but you could find an on-line community, a coach, or a new acquaintance with a similar goal or challenge. Find someone who is compassionate, who will want you to achieve what you have set out to do, and who will be able to remind you of the insights you had when recognizing your challenges.

Now you’re ready to achieve your New Year’s resolution! Next time you see the signs of your obstacle coming around again, recognize them. Say to yourself, here’s that challenge I knew was coming – and I can deal with it. Then put your plan in action. If you have some trouble, call on your support system.

What are your resolutions this year? What are your recognitions?

This post is part of the Nourishing Resolutions on The Nourishing Gourmet and A New Year of Holding Ourselves Accountable on Great Contradictions.

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