As we embark upon another year, we have an opportunity to set some intentions—a new beginning to recreate our lives in the areas that feel stuck and not expansive.
So we resolve to change those areas—we proclaim New Year’s Resolutions. It is certainly a worthy project, rooting out the parts of your life that are bogging you down. However most of us end up disappointed in ourselves weeks into the New Year.
We were taught that to make changes or get anything done is to power through, make it happen with pure push and will power. I have been a proud pusher for years—a believer that I can make things happen by sheer will power. What this does instead is exhausts me and keeps me stuck in the illusion that muscling through actually works and is the only thing between success and failure. In fact, there are many other factors to contend with in this process. And the toll on our systems is self-evident by how many of us have stress related issues, especially when the use of will power fails us.
Psychologist David DeSteno, who wrote “The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions” in the New York Times, contends that it is not a matter of not enough will power, but rather not enough gratitude, compassion and pride. He believes it is these positive emotions of gratitude for life, compassion for others and pride in what we do that supports us in finding patience and perseverance enough to make the changes we desire.
Sounds odd right? Actually it aligns with an aspect of my coaching work with clients —we track the specific qualities of well-being they want more of in their life. Over time, this becomes the orienting force, which allows them to determine how they use their time, what behaviors they want to change, and what states of being they want to experience. Because after all, if you think about it, underneath everything we do are states of being we are going for.
If we set a goal to exercise every day, it is not necessarily because we love the act of exercising, but more because we love the effects: the relaxed state our body is in after a workout and the feeling of health and energy that comes from regularly moving.
If we set a goal to lose weight, it’s not to achieve a number on a scale, but to feel comfortable in our body, to like how we look in the mirror, to feel lean and strong.
If we set a goal of earning more money, it is not to have a bigger pile before us, but to bring more of a feeling of freedom, abundance and ease into our life.
When we look deep enough at everything we do, we get to the layer of well-being that we are going for. And as we identify the well-being qualities that are important to us, they become a motivator to follow through with changing our behavior in order to experience more of those well-being qualities we want to experience.
Our lives are then oriented towards our Being. The Doing, instead of being the driving, obsessive force, can then be channeled towards what is healthy, pleasurable and helpful for us, and away from what is habitually not helpful for us, so that we can live the life we want to be living, first and foremost as human Beings.
And we may even experience some other well-being emotions we don’t expect: surprise, gratitude and pride for all the resolutions we actually keep!
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