A New Approach to Resolutions
This time of year inevitably creates a pull towards reflection and reinvention. Many of us reflexively, and painstakingly, outline what we plan to accomplish in the coming year — which usually means ways we’ll improve ourselves physically and financially.
These kinds of resolutions tend to bring along with them a subtle feeling of dread.
We buy a new gym membership with optimism and hope, but deep down we know we will probably lose momentum after the first month if that. Gyms count on this and their business models actually depend on selling memberships to people who will never use them.
This year I find the resolution process to be extra poignant — a year filled with social and political upheaval, surrounded by illness and death has a way of bringing my own mortality and limitations into focus.
The question “what do I want?” has taken on an especially powerful sense of importance and nuance. If my days are numbered, and so many things are outside my control, what value are six pack abs or a six-figure bank account?
As a young man I trained in meditation both here in the US and while living in and travelling through Asia. There’s a perspective I learned from these studies that I think is especially relevant for the times we are living through — that what we want is not a particular object or achievement but the feeling they provide.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has a similar insight and says that “Feelings form the base for what humans have described for millennia as the human soul or spirit.”
In other words we don’t want the bank account or the body, we want the feeling of safety, confidence, comfort or peace that we imagine these things will generate for us.
I also notice that feelings have a way of reinforcing themselves. When I feel focused, calm, and connected to other human beings I’m a better writer, consultant, husband and father — I’m a happier human. This in turn makes me more likely to make moves that keep me focused, calm and connected to other human beings.
With this in mind I’m approaching resolutions this year with a focus on how I want to be rather than what I want to achieve. Because I want to be focused, calm and connected to other human beings I’m taking actions that promote physical health, mental clarity, and human connection — exercising, eating well, sleeping enough, staying organized, and making time for important relationships.
While these may sound like traditional resolutions they are actually quite different. I’m focused on how each action will make me feel, not the goal I’ll achieve. While I may set a goal of exercising a certain number of days each week, I’m doing this because I know I’ll feel a certain way when I do it rather than because I want to reach a certain target weight.
I invite you to try this mindset on too — make resolutions based not on a distant metric to achieve but instead based on how you’ll feel while working towards that goal.
Resolve to show up differently and offer yourself all the support and flexibility you need in order to do so. Approaching resolutions from a place of being, not achieving, will not only help you achieve some goals it will also help you enjoy the journey to them.
This journey by the way is what’s known as your life, as Lennon put it: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I’m resolving to live my life now rather than waiting for that six-pack. Please join me and share your journey with me — I’d love to learn with you.