Ever wonder why those New Year's resolutions don't ever seem to work out? While it probably makes sense to work out more regularly, stick to a better diet or work on that bad habit, you have probably selected the wrong focus. If you want things to be different this time around, what you really need to do is ask yourself a few more questions rather than seeking a few more goals.
Let's start with why going to the gym, dieting or stopping smoking matters in the first place. No one goes to the gym because going to the gym is the goal. If you have gym on your resolution list, ask yourself why going to the gym matters.
Once you get your first answer to "why gym," take it another level deeper and ask "why does that matter." You may have to go several levels deeper before you wind up with what really matters to you. For example, I recall working with Rob a few years back. He really wanted to get into a routine of working out at the gym three times a week. When I asked why that was important, he said he wanted to get back into shape. "Why is getting back into shape important?" I asked. "So I'll feel good about myself."
You can imagine where this might be heading. Sure, he didn't feel good about himself in part because of his physical condition, but there were more significant issues underneath all that physical level image stuff. When I asked him if there were other things that made him feel not so good about himself, he began to open up to what really mattered to him.
He said that he had a sense of having let himself down over the years, picking goals and then shrinking from them. Underneath all of that he found that he lacked self-confidence, and along with that came a low sense of self-worth or self-esteem.
We then turned our attention to what would be true if he had more self-confidence and a greater sense of self-esteem. As we worked on these questions, he became increasingly aware of what really mattered to him, and he began to glow. The more he became aware of the difference between his inner and outer areas of focus, it was a pretty simple process of asking him to imagine how he would like to experience himself in the process of setting and accomplishing his goals. As is obvious by now, he wanted to experience greater self-confidence and self-esteem.
The more he began to focus on building his sense of well-being and self-esteem, the more he began to realize that what he really wanted was to experience himself in alignment with a deeper aspect of who he truly was. This sense of inner alignment is often referred to in the worlds of psychology and personal development as having integrity or being authentic.
One useful definition of being authentic means presenting outwardly that which is also true inwardly, while having integrity can mean simply being "one with what is." Rob was beginning to discover that his self-esteem and self-confidence issues arose less from what he did with his physical body and more from how well he reflected who he truly is in his day-to-day life. In other words, his quality of life came more from how he presented himself in the world than it did through what he did in the world.
With this budding awareness, Rob was able to construct a vision of himself as acting in alignment with the deeper aspects of who he truly is, and his "New Year's resolution" turned more into a "New You resolution." His commitment turned toward his true self, what I have been calling his "Soul-Talk" in this recent series of articles. My good friends, Ron and Mary Hulnick, call this process in their amazing book by the same name, one of Loyalty to Your Soul.
From there, Rob was able to create a different kind of New Year's resolution, more of an affirmation, something that went along the lines of: "I am living my life authentically, expressing who I truly am in all that I do." Variations on the theme could include:
• "I am one with my soul."
• "I am strong, confident and in control of my choices, living my life in integrity and authenticity."
• "I live my life through Soul-Centered eyes, expressing who I truly am in all that I do and say."
If you would like to experiment with this kind of thinking, ask yourself what it is about yourself that you would like to change in the new year. Ask yourself why it would matter, or what difference it would make. The more your answers tend to be about physical circumstances changing, the more you need to keep asking the questions. However, a curious paradox will likely occur: The more you zero in on the deeper levels of inner experience you seek, the more the outer world will seem to fall into place.
From there, you can easily adopt targets or goals, things like going to the gym or changing your dietary choices. You will soon discover that you can create the experiences you truly seek all along the way, and the goals or targets are simply things you can do while keeping your eyes on the real target -- that of becoming more of who you truly are.
I would love to hear from you about your experiences of setting New Year's resolutions. Please do leave a comment or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com. I wish you a year of grace and blessings.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of transformation to your life and to your job, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.