I’ve been pondering resolutions this week. How and why we make them. The why is pretty straight-forward. Most of us do well with some clearly defined targets to aim for, but it’s the how that I reckon could do with a bit of a makeover. Why is it that the same list of resolutions that at one point has us bolting out of the gate into a new year can pretty quickly feel like it’s looming over us like a big fat cloud of non-achievement? Could we avoid those little pangs of guilt and disappointment by switching resolution with intention, and obligation with inspiration?
Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about the term “resolution” that just seems so rigid and absolute. Instead of creating an environment that encourages creativity, improvisation and growth, we invent more rules to stick to, more commitments and more obligations, as if we didn’t have enough already. Looking up synonyms for “resolution” demonstrate this point pretty well: tenacity, doggedness, firmness. It’s no wonder our aspirations and goals for the new year can quickly lose their charm.
We might even devise little self-punishment mechanisms in anticipation of our non-compliance – no wine on the weekend if we don’t get to the gym 4 times a week. You’ve got to wonder, why do we do it? Are we just manufacturing unnecessarily demanding deadlines and creating more “should dos” and “have tos” that leave us feeling guilty and unaccomplished when left undone?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we abandon goal-setting and just cruise along without direction (I’m a recovering Type A after all), but what if we were to position these targets and desires within a less onerous framework? One that meant we didn’t end up beating ourselves up as another month flew by and we still hadn’t achieved those first 5 things on the list.
Purpose, objective, aim, plan. Synonyms of “intention” bring with them a much more uplifting vibe, don’t you think? And before those of you thinking, “tomayto, tomahto, what’s in a word?” switch off, here’s where I see the difference. When it comes to setting intentions, we’re still taking time to reflect and make a very deliberate commitment to a desired outcome. We’ve identified what’s important to us and made a conscious decision to channel our efforts towards achieving it. The goal is there and the path to reaching it may even be laid out, but there’s also a recognition that plans change. And so do we. Our aspirations and limitations aren’t static, and that’s ok. The motivation and resolve is still there, but there’s just a little more breathing space and a little less burden.
I know this, because at the end of 2016 I switched resolution with intention. I sat down and dedicated a decent amount of time to thinking about and writing down (this is key!) my wishes for the year ahead. Some specific tasks, some more general themes and a word for the year (which, if you’re wondering, is “flourish” for 2018). Going through this exercise firmly implanted those intentions in the back of my mind and they naturally started to guide my actions. As I sit back and review them now, I can honestly say that I am surprised at how many of the goals I have achieved. Although it’s not fair to say “without even trying,” it really doesn’t feel like it’s been a burdensome task and it’s reinforced my belief that resolutions shouldn’t be something we have to hustle to achieve. Take away that rigid layer of expectation and hey, we might even enjoy ourselves along the way. Have I achieved everything on the list? Nope. And it feels just fine.
So here’s to a new year, the joy of a fresh start (and a new notebook!), and to giving ourselves the space to grow and thrive free of all those self-imposed “should dos” and “have tos”. Progress not perfection ☺
Ciao for now,
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