Almost a month has passed since the flurry of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’re doing great, or perhaps you have already given up. For those resolutions that have already become a distant memory, I have a point of view for you to consider that may bring you a sense of freedom…
You Never Had a Chance.
Honestly. What is the point, really? We are trained to think we need a new calendar to make a new start, that somehow magic dust gets sprinkled on us while we’re sleeping New Year’s Eve and we wake up January 1st with the resolve to do and be whatever it is we think we should; often the very thing we’ve been thinking about for months or even years and suddenly it’s supposed to just happen. But how is it any different from any other day – from any other moment? The worst part is, we are trained to believe that when we “fail” (not if, but when) we are a failure, we lost our chance, and we might as well just quit because we already blew it. Our culture is all about quick fixes, instant gratification, and immediate results. But if you reflect on times in your life when you made a lasting, powerful change that produced your intended results, what did it take to have it happen? I see a few key elements required for lasting, powerful change:
First, be honest with yourself. Take the judgment out of what you or anyone else thinks “should” be, and be straight with yourself about it. If you smoke and you have no desire to quit, don’t pretend you’re going to. It will only lead to suffering for you and your loved ones. You’ll suffer through “trying” to quit while they suffer through getting their hopes up. When the prices outweigh the payoffs, you’ll make a change. I’ve known people who watched a parent or sibling suffer through lung cancer and eventually the “price” of possibly getting cancer themselves finally outweighed the “payoff” of the pleasure they felt from smoking. If you are getting so many payoffs from whatever it is you’re doing that you don’t want to change, just be real about it. And, perhaps part of getting real may be to consider whether the payoffs really are paying off.
Commitment requires another level of honesty. Ask yourself, “Am I truly committed to this change, or do I just hope, wish, or want for it to happen?” This is what I refer to as living in Hope Wis & Want. Many of us say we’re committed to a change or determined to make something happen, but we’re really just in Hope Wish & Want. My view of commitment is being willing to reinvent yourself and taking committed action to be and do what it takes to make something happen. Many people who contact me say they want lose weight, and they’re exactly right, they want to. I remember when I first saw Janet Jackson’s video of Love Will Never Do Without You around 1990; I was blown away by how she looked. I think anyone who saw that video was blown away. I wanted six pack abs and lean toned muscle just like she had and I fooled myself into thinking I was “determined” to make it happen. But you know how she got that look? She was working out almost 8 hours a day between personal training, sweating in the gym, dance rehearsals, and concert performances. Was I willing to work out 8 hours a day? Was I willing to hire a personal trainer to work with me every day? Absolutely not. I wanted the look, I wished I looked like her, I hoped it would somehow happen, but I wasn’t committed to it. On the flip side, there have been times in my life when I have been fully committed to something and I created the exact results I intended.
The final key element to making lasting change is practice. I don’t know anyone who could ride a bike the first time they tried. It takes practice. You have to fall off many times before you learn to stay on. The beauty of something like balance is one you get it, you get it. You can never really unlearn it because you just know it, but it takes commitment and practice get there. Many of us have been practicing our bad habits for years or even decades. January 1st doesn’t make all that practice and expertise go away. We need to practice our new habits, too. You may be surprised to find that in some cases, just like learning balance to ride a bike, once you get it you never go back.