Resolutions? Some radical thoughts perhaps…
What’s so bad about New Year’s Resolutions, or making new ones at any time of the year, when they can fill us with hope and determination? Well…perhaps living in the future, instead of the present.
OK, what’s so bad about Resolutions, really? Like much of life…nothing much. Almost anything viewed as a positive can also have a negative side.
I often write that if you have no goals, how can you achieve them? And yet something clinicians see a lot of problems with is clients either living in the past or living in the future instead of practicing mindfulness and living in the present.
Our brains work in ways that encourage goal making, because making goals and attaining them sets us apart from most other creatures. Goals do help in some ways not to waste valuable time and energy running about without an aim in mind. Neuroscience indicates that we need “pursuit” to activate certain pleasure centers. Goals can define us by what we want – and then to achieve them gives pleasure, but so does the pursuit itself.
Goals and resolutions are not the same thing, however. All resolutions are living in the future to some extent when we resolve at various times to change our body, lose weight, make more money, read or relax more, save more money, be a better parent or friend, and much more.
What if you ask yourself every single morning, “What do I want my life to look like today?” “What could I reasonably make happen today?” “What is the one thing that I can do that will give me the greatest joy or satisfaction today?”
If you do this regularly, almost everything in your life will begin to change for the better. If the details and requirements of achieving your goals take up too much of your thought, time and energy, they may be keeping you from enjoying what is happening right now that you should be taking pleasure in.
Some resolutions this time of year may actually include leaving a relationship. Many of my friends and clients say their lives would be better “if he would…” or “if she would stop…” and they continue waiting for something to change. It may not. They could stop waiting for a future that may never turn out as they envision it and they could start living their own lives just one day at a time in ways that are meaningful and full of joy. I’ve seen some partners actually turn around unwanted behaviors when my clients took this new approach of deciding, “What do I want to enjoy just for today and what can I reasonably make happen?” This means that you are not trying to control or change anyone or make anyone join you.
Try living by pleasing yourself and helping others just for today. You lose yourself when you live too much for goals and too much for others or also too much of your life waiting for others to change and give you what you think you want…always in the future.
I think the best goal or resolution is to eat more of what is healthy and eliminate all foods, activities and people who are harmful. Write down your own goals and review them daily and see magical opportunities arise. Have visual reminders such as a toy replica car on your desk, a small palm if Hawaii is your dream, a photo of you at a smaller size, or whatever, that you see daily.
If you set goals, not resolutions, that are positive, not negative, (I won’t ever eat sugar. I’ll not go one day without exercising.) you are wise. Goals need to be positive, worthwhile, attainable, incrementally measurable, reasonable, very specific, broken down into timely parts, and easy to adjust if need be.
If you are having challenges with working on your goals daily, why not consider monthly or weekly ones instead? Life is short. Go live it. Only make resolutions if you can be kind to yourself and be flexible.
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Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.
Sharon Valentino – Behavioral Health
Valentino Therapy, CA LMFT, MA, ChT, Psychotherapist