New Year resolutions don’t work. Yeah, there are some people who can use them to change something. Generally, you won’t change simply by resolving to do so. The lesson is that your New Year resolutions aren’t going to work.
The reason is simple. It’s that you (and me) have an unconscious block against changing. For every resolution to lose weight, stop drinking, save money, etc., there are those pesky unconscious pledges to keep it all the same.
If you accept that knowledge, then you’d need to accept the power of the unconscious mind. Unfortunately, that runs counter to our modern cultural norms. Whatever they are, your New Year resolutions aren’t going to work.
So, What’s the Real Reason?
You don’t develop self-destructive behaviors just because. They just don’t become a habit. It’s not your genes or your neurobiology. You develop them because they serve beliefs and needs that are buried deep in the subconscious. Whether you like it or not, those beliefs/needs are important, even though they’re hidden. What they do is provide a sense of unconscious safety. Trying to change them is felt by your inner being as dangerous.
Take me for example. I was a binge eater. Can’t tell you how much weight I gained and lost. I think I’ve done every single diet known to man (except for fasting, never had the nerve to try that one). Turns out that growing up, I felt lonely and disconnected. Eating gave me momentary relief from feelings that were too painful to tolerate for very long. It wasn’t until I dug into the emotional states inside me that I could stop bingeing. Although I am still chubby, I am managing to lose weight in a sensible way.
I worked with a man who is a procrastinator. It affected his performance and how he was seen by the higher-ups where we worked. He made repeated vows to get it together but never could seem to do it. Tried stimulants, hypnosis, and other things. He thought of himself as lazy. That he could just use his willpower to change. And, failed time after time. There was something so painful, that to change himself was quite frightening.
If someone had confronted me (or Sam) with the underlying facts, I’d have told you that you were crazy. But that’d have my conscious mind speaking.
Examples are endless. There are as many as there are unconscious stories and fears. Yet, most of you can’t accept that it plays such a profound role in stopping change. Maybe, like I was, you’re afraid that believing in it, your worst fears about yourself will be confirmed.
Can You Really Change?
Jeff Olsen writes in The Slight Edge:
“Having a dream is not always a matter of all roses and sweetness; ambitions and desires can be uncomfortable, even painful.”
Are you one of the millions that would rather distract themselves from their goals by using food, wine, bad reality TV, you name it? Do you want to medicate yourself rather than admit a dream and never see it come true.
How do I know?
I’ve done my share of life coaching with abused women. I have worked intimately with dozens of them over the past several years. Thus, I’ve seen things and learned things.
For example, here’s something I know. The “successful” ones, you know, the ones that set and reached goals, are no better than you. They weren’t more talented, nor did they have more self-disciplined.
They did the inner work first. And so do you.
The only difference between people who achieve goals and people who do not is mindset.
What Can You do?
Here are some tweaks you can apply:
Pay Close Attention to Your Why
Are your goals for you or about you? Are you using goals to prove a point, imitate someone else, or show your competence?
I’d call those “bad” goals. Even thinking about these goals will compel you to suck on Margaritas (or your fave drink) while surfing for a new coach.
Your goals should be for you. They should feel energizing, exciting and challenging. They need to make you stretch and grow.
Say No to Black-White Thinking
This type of thinking is a total goal killer. It will sabotage the long-term work you do to reach your goals. Every. Single. Time.
Don’t fall for the trap. Like I found out, you are never either “on” or “off” a diet. Never following/not following a financial plan or any other kind of routine.
When you get derailed, figure out what went wrong and course-correct.
Plant, Harvest And Cultivate
Farmers get it. But, most of you haven’t experienced the cycle of planting crops first-hand.
With goal is like planting a crop. You can’t go directly from planting to harvesting. You have to learn cultivate your goal. There isn’t any such thing as instant gratification, either in having a crop or in getting your goals. You have to work them.
Perfectionism Is a Form of Procrastination
Take it from Elizabeth Gilbert,
“Finish your sloppy-ass novel, your irritating painting, your not-what-you-had-hoped-for poem, your disappointing song, your lame dance, your boring play.”
Done is better than good.
If you wait to create the “perfect” plan, or wait until your book/product/[insert your thing here] is “perfect,” you’ll guarantee the goal never sees the light of day.
Perfect doesn’t exist.
Failure is the only option when reaching your goals.
You’ve got to overcome your fear of failure. Any mistake you make on the way is the feedback you needed to get.
Ever see a baby try to learn how to crawl, stand, walk? They understand this, adults usually don’t. You gotta fall, a lot, to learn how to walk.
How Do You Change?
No, you don’t to go into 10 years of psychoanalysis.
You must start understanding what it is that makes you really tick. And, have compassion for yourself as you try to understand what really motivates your behavior. When you hit one of your walls, understand where it comes from and how it makes you safe. Then and only then will you be able to make a change.
Just remember, until you do this, your New Year resolutions aren’t going to work.