I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. A great deal of research has been done on this topic and it reports that somewhere in the ballpark of 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Even more staggering, the vast majority of them don’t last through February. You’ve probably heard many reasons why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. I am not going to spend a lot of time here dwelling on why they may be ineffective. Rather I want to look at what can work for you. I like to think of these 6 keys as a guide to experiencing more of what you want in 2021.
1. Confront your magical thinking
Many resolutions are purely about the end result and pay no attention to the process or the journey. Many are about getting somewhere different or becoming something completely different. We believe that if we only “get” our goal or desired outcome then we will be happy. This issue with disregarding the experience you have throughout the process and each moment along the way—is that the specific moment of reaching the finish line is incredibly fleeting and makes up an infinitesimally small part of the entire journey. Think about it. An Olympic athlete that wins a gold medal spends thousands of hours preparing to enjoy a few fleeting moments of so-called “success” while standing on the podium. If you are someone who is driven by the S word, challenge yourself to be more specific in how you define your success. Is it something you can attain and experience on a daily basis or something that is only accessible once in a blue moon?
By having success, happiness, or fulfillment be completely tied to a future goal, you are inherently keeping it always at an arm’s length. Give yourself permission to have a taste of it right now.
2. Adopt a new motto: “It is better to travel well than to arrive”
Don’t get me wrong, choosing a direction, a goal, and a destination are important. I have also seen many people suffer the agony of achieving a goal only to find themselves asking, “Is this all there is?” Get clear about how you want to travel; what you want your journey to feel like. More specifically, ask yourself this question often:
What do I want to experience on a consistent basis in my life?
As a matter of fact, ask this question daily and you will surely improve your likelihood of experiencing enjoyment and fulfillment.
3. Remember: Be — Do — Have
Our culture has placed such an emphasis on getting and having things. Whether that be nice things, money, power, status, or glory, advertisers are constantly inundating us with the promise of, “Get this and then you’ll be happy” or “Buy this and your life will be 1000x better.” Every time I have purchased something, I thought it was going to substantially change my life, but I have been sorely let down. The enjoyment was as fleeting and empty as trying to feel satiated by eating popcorn.
In addition to trying to get more, our culture is also obsessed with doing. We believe we have to work more and do more in order to be enough. We have 24/7 access to everything. We sacrifice sleep for trying to get ahead. There is a cultural epidemic of the fear of missing out (otherwise coined as FOMO), spurred by social media and this global digital age. I have experienced that by doing more, committing myself to more things, and piling more onto my schedule, it did not provide me any greater fulfillment. Truthfully, I was exhausted and burnt out and it created greater feelings of frustration. Why was I working so hard to only feel more disconnected, discouraged, and defeated? It took me many years to gain the awareness that my enjoyment and fulfillment were more a byproduct of my ability to connect with the present moment and be fully in my experience rather than simply doing more, getting more, or being more productive.
4. Master the first hour and the last hour of your day
The world is undoubtedly an uncertain place. Everything can change in an instant. By its very nature, there is so much that is outside of our control. We struggle day in and day out to try and control people, places, and things that are outside of our own skin. By acknowledging this, it can feel daunting each day to wake up to what could be perceived as pure chaos (yes, there is a reason I use the word “perceived”).
We as humans need a sense of certainty—a feeling of inner security. It is necessitated by our primitive brain and basic survival instinct. If we try and get this feeling of certainty from the outside world, we will be incredibly fearful and disappointed. It can’t be gained from out there.
By spending your first hour and last hour of the day in rituals and practices that energize you, calm you, or center you, you are teaching your brain and body that your sense of certainty comes from within yourself and you will spend less time looking for it “out there.” These rituals can include (but are not limited to): exercise, meditation, prayer, journaling, practicing an instrument, working on a craft, or engaging in any hobby that promotes mindfulness. With these daily rituals now you’ve packed your parachute and you’re bringing an internal feeling of resourcefulness (strength, calm, confidence, etc) to meeting the challenges and stressors of the everchanging external world.
5. Create Rituals to Prime Yourself Emotionally
Rituals are the water that feeds and nurtures us and our growth. They also can be highly influential in the way we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Establish a set of consistent practices that nurture and support the emotions and states of mind you want to experience most. If you want to feel more peaceful, grounded, and centered, commit yourself to daily rituals that help you to experience a sense of tranquility and serenity. If you enjoy feeling a sense of connection and community, immerse yourself in daily and weekly practices that connect you with those people, organizations, clubs, etc, that most align with your values, mission, and purpose.
Our level of fulfillment tends to be very representative of the emotions we experience on a consistent basis. Notice where you spend your time emotionally and create new rituals to prime yourself each day.
6. Last but not least: enjoy yourself here and now
An old Tibetan saying wraps up everything that has been conveyed in the simplest and most eloquent manner:
“If you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.”
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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