As we welcome in the New Year, what more tempting a time it is to consider turning over a new leaf in life. We look back on the experiences of the past year, some amazing and beautiful, others we’d much rather forget. We look back on the chances we didn’t take or the promises we made to ourselves that we broke, and we swear to ourselves that this year will be different. The year ahead of us presents a brand, new chapter full of fresh, clean pages in which to write our immediate future. Some friends and clients are committed to heading back to the gym on a regular basis, quitting smoking, cutting down on sugar, getting out of credit card debt, starting a small business, or losing those extra 15 lbs. Admirable goals all – yet previous research showed that almost 90 percent of all New Year’s resolutions result in failure.
According to an article in The Guardian, many of those whose New Year’s resolutions unraveled because people had focused on the downside of not achieving them, suppressed their natural cravings, focused on fantasies in lieu of the realities of life or relied on willpower alone. One can’t help but think it’s time we start rethinking how we view and approach the positive changes we wish to make in our lives.
Many of us make resolutions with the underlying thought that these changes will completely revolutionize our lives, reinvent who we are or will provide that last, missing puzzle piece that finally allows us to be happy and satisfied with the direction and path of our lives. As Danielle LaPorte writes in her radical guide for defining and achieving your own personal success, The Fire Starter Sessions, “If your goals aren’t synced with the substance of your heart, then achieving them won’t matter much.”
Perhaps a better approach would be to start looking outside the restrictive box of unrealistic deadlines and expectations when envisioning the kind of 2013 we dream of having. What are some things we can do to M.A.N.I.F.E.S.T the most joyous, abundant, love-filled, awe-inducing year ahead?
Make a list of all the things you feel need to happen in your life in the upcoming year. What do you want to make happen? What would you love to see in your life? What would you like to experience? Don’t censor yourself. In this exercise, dismiss thoughts that your desires are silly or impractical. Don’t fret over what you believe is or isn’t possible—we’re dream building here.
Ask yourself: Which of these speak to the highest priorities in my life? Which of these are in alignment with my values? Which will help bring me closer to the person I want to be and to create the kind of life I envision for myself and desire (and deserve) to thrive in? Take note of these as you move ahead. Write them down in bold ink, placing the desires than burn brightest in clear sight of where you most need to see them – whether it’s at your computer, on your bathroom mirror, on your checkbook or on the refrigerator.
Never underestimate the power of a vision board. Allowing you to step into the virtual reality of your future, a vision board brings clarity to your desires by allowing you to immerse in visuals of what you want to have and who you want to become. Find images that speak to you about your goals and dreams and make a collage of them on poster board. Or, if you’re technologically savvy, you can do it online on Oprah’s Dream Board, or you can utilize the ultimate, interactive vision board, Pinterest, solely for this purpose.
Imagine what it will be like to have the kind of life you want. We explored what life will look like a bit with vision boards, but how does it make you feel? How will it feel to be able to run and play with your kids instead of just watching from the sidelines? How will it feel to have extra energy to do your hobbies and avocations instead of being rundown before you’ve even left work? How will it feel to have physical and emotional stress lifted from you, knowing that your debts are paid off? What will it be like when you repair a broken relationship, whether with a lover, friend, family member or colleague, and heal a long-held hurt?
Focus on the present. Bring your wishes for the future into the actions of the present. If you want to be more physically active, start adding activities into your daily life that allow for more movement. Start small and doable – today, shoot for a 15-minute walk or run; you can work toward the 5K run six months from now. If you want to get on top of your finances, focus now on the extraneous expenses that you can cut out of your budget and start telling yourself no to things you don’t need and can’t afford.
Keep your thoughts actively present as well: Rather than repeating to yourself, I will pay off my debts, or When I pay off my debts, I will…, speak as if it’s already in progress: I am paying off my debts. Be grateful for your life today in this moment. Be grateful for the experiences that lead you to this current awareness. Embody your values, fine tune where you see the discrepancies and keep looking forward.
Expect the unexpected. We know circumstances beyond our control do occur. And we also recognize that sometimes we will have temporary setbacks. We may slip up on a diet one day and be tempted to self-flagellate over “being weak.” Seeing this as failure, we may use this as an excuse: “See, I knew I couldn’t do this,” and simply fall back into our old habits of eating. In other words, we use one bad day as an excuse to give up.
Instead, cut yourself some slack. Many experts actually suggest that taking a break to, for example, indulge in a favorite food infrequently might give you that extra kick to resist temptation when it next comes along. Consider moderation versus total restriction, which frequently sparks craving and binging.
Surround yourself with a great support team. Remember that no man or woman is an island. There will be other factors in your life, such as your job, relationships, and health that may influence your ability to stay on your improved course. You will need as much support as you can. Seek out an accountability buddy—or a few—whom you can check in with on a regular basis, to make sure you are staying on track. Keep positive, supportive people around you who are sincerely rooting for you to be the best you.
The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open. – Chuck Palahniuk
Take risks. Don’t let fear or self-doubt win over your desires and dreams to live your best life. Living in fear is not living in truth about who you really are and all that you can achieve. Trust in yourself, your talents and abilities, not least of which is your ability to learn and grow. Trust that your support team will be there to catch you if you falter.