No More New Year’s Resolutions
Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, how about an Improved You Resolution?
It’s that time of year when people think about making major lifestyle changes. I have no idea how long the concept of New Year’s resolutions has been around, but I do know that making resolutions seldom leads to the desired outcome.
Suppose I resolve to exercise on a regular basis. Starting is easy. We’ve all done that. It’s sticking to it that can be difficult.
Why is it so difficult?
Change is difficult because we don’t seriously consider what we’re going to give up in order to add regular exercise to daily life. Do I get up earlier in the morning to exercise – meaning that I’m going to give up that early morning sleep? If I’m committed to exercise and to sleeping x number of hours, that means I have to go to bed earlier. Which, in turn, means I have to give up some evening activity.
If I resolve to give up something such as smoking or desserts, I have the flip side of the same coin: “What am I going to do instead? How will I fill that void?” Making life changes necessarily sets up internal conflicts. A part of me wants to change, but there’s another part that does not.
Is it a lack of willpower?
I hear people say things like, “I want to change, but I just don’t have the willpower or discipline.” That was as complaint among my clients caught in the trap of substance abuse. “I want to quit drinking but I lack willpower” was a common refrain. But once an alcoholic decides he or she is going to drink or an addict decides to use, NOTHING is going to stop them. It isn’t a question of willpower. It’s a question of internal conflicts. To solve an internal conflict, one has to use the same strategy one uses to solve other conflicts.
Whenever there is a conflict there are four possible outcomes:
I win, you lose;
You win, I lose;
We both lose (called compromise);
We both win.
Achieving a win-win outcome requires higher level thinking, but is worth the effort. It starts with digging deeper. What is it that each of these conflicting parts really wants? For example, suppose I want to lose weight so I decide to give up sweets. But there’s a part of me that feels the meal isn’t complete if there is no dessert. By digging deeper I may discover that what I really want is to be healthy and feel satisfied. If that’s the case, maybe the two conflicting parts are willing to engage in a solution that fits both needs like eating smaller portions of everything. I don’t deprive myself of pleasure and give myself a chance to be healthier.
Improved You Diplomacy
Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, how about an Improved You Resolution? A New Year’s Resolution is, by design, an attempt to “bulldoze” over some part of yourself, a part that had its way for a long time and is unlikely to give up without a fight. By finding the positive intention of each of the parts involved in the conflict and working to find a way of satisfying both, remarkable outcomes can arise.
Wishing you a Happy New Year AND an improved you.
By Larry R. Wells