It’s that time of year again. Studies show that 50% of people make New Year’s resolutions and as low as 8% of them actually stick to them by February.
We might think we’re weak-willed, and feel resigned that we just can’t change. Or maybe we beat ourselves up and feel worse, only to go through the same process next year.
What if there is a way to change without forcing or fixing?
What if there’s nothing wrong with you, but instead the way our culture does resolutions doesn’t work?
For every conscious change we want to make, there are unconscious commitments to keep things exactly the way they are. There are things we’re getting from our current behaviors, like ease, comfort, and security, that we need to find new ways of getting, in order to make change stick.
Melody and I believe that every behavior has a positive motivation, even though the behavior we use may not be good for us. Forcing/fixing doesn’t work because we are cutting off that part of us and then we feel fragmented; the proverbial baby/bathwater thing.
The behavior is there to meet a vital need or uphold an important value of ours.
This is good because once we figure out what that need or value is, we can be grateful for getting that need met; and discover a new, beneficial way of meeting that need.
For example, I had a client who had worked at the same dead-end job for years, and kept resolving to advance his career. But he had a strong inner critic, and whenever he looked for a new job, he would self-sabotage.
His inner critic would tell him things like, “You’ll never succeed; you don’t have it in you!”
When I told him his inner critic wanted something good for him, he said, “What do you mean? That’s my inner critic! It just wants to see me fail!”
When I guided him to hear what it really wanted for him, such as safety, comfort, acceptance, and belonging, his whole attitude shifted. Over time, as he learned to hear the deeper message of that voice, it stopped talking so harshly. It told him he needed to create more ways to feel safety, comfort, and acceptance, and let go of some outdated ways of thinking.
With more ease, he started practicing more self-care like meditation and exercise, and having more emotionally nourishing conversations with his wife. Then he felt grounded enough to pursue new career options, not to mention having more energy and a better relationship.
If he had kept pushing that voice away, he never would have found new ways to get those needs met in a fulfilling way.
So how do we set New Year’s intentions, get past self-judgment and hear the deeper message and needs/values of those parts and behaviors that we don’t like?
The following steps are a good starting point:
1) Create an intention you want to accomplish in 2014. Flesh out what that would look/feel like. Really feel into how that would affect your life.
2) Notice if any self-judgment or reasons why you won’t succeed come up from your inner critic. Ask that part of you what need/value it serves, and let it answer you. You can look at this list of needs/values for guidance. For example, if you’re a perfectionist, that part of you might value effectiveness, beauty, competence, self-respect, or acceptance, to name a few.
3) Look at that need through a lens of appreciation for these needs/values. Why are these needs/values important to you? What do they mean to you? How is life more fulfilling when they’re met? This shifts the emotion and moves us into a more creative state. Notice how that need IS getting met in your life and feel grateful for the ways you ARE experiencing it being fulfilled.
4) Look at the cost of the current method or behavior that meets that need/value. This is a non-judgmental assessment. When we’re really in touch with the pain of our current actions, there’s more motivation to find new behaviors to meet those needs. We’re creatures of habit, and creating new habits takes time and motivation, but beating ourselves up is not necessary.
5) Ask that part of you, how ELSE can I get those needs/values met in a harmonious way? You can find new behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and support systems. Visualizing yourself doing those new behaviors makes them more likely to stick, as does finding people to support you.
6) From this place of listening to all parts of you, create a new intention that fulfills all the needs that you discovered.
Wash, rinse, repeat!
Every time you find yourself having a thought or behavior that you don’t like, you can go through this process. You can feel grateful that it’s leading you to greater self-awareness of your needs/values, with the potential to make your life more fulfilling by getting them met in new ways!
Please try out steps and let me know your experience in the comments!