Finding the Positive Emotions in Your Resolutions
It’s that time of year when many people sit down to reflect about what they want to change in the new year. They think about what they’re not satisfied with, even what they’re guilty about, and they think (with logic or intellect) that they should change their ways. For example, someone who considers themselves overweight might not be feeling to good about themselves for a variety of reasons (medical problems, lower self esteem, lack of energy, nagging family, etc.) and feel that losing those 20 pounds should be on their list of resolutions.
Some even go a step further and say how they’re going to go about achieving their goals – sign up for a gym membership, walk more, eat less, and so on.
Others take it a step further and establish certain rewards for achieving milestones along the way. For example, someone who wants to manage their money better so they can reduce their debt, would allow themselves a specific purchase every month as a reward for avoiding impulsive shopping throughout the month.
Evidence shows that most resolutions fail within a couple of months, which makes people feel worse off than before. Not only did they not achieve their ambitious goals, they went ahead and declared their commitment to everyone they knew and now feel shameful that everyone will see that they missed the mark.
(Hold on, I think I hear the pizza delivery guy pulling into the driveway!)
What underlies most resolutions is a negative feeling – something we feel guilty or shameful about and want to change because we don’t want to feel bad anymore. Using negative feelings, whether done consciously or unconsciously, as the foundation for resolutions is why most of them fail.
Instead, find the good feelings and harness the power of positive emotions. You can use a negative feeling as the impetus for a resolution but do yourself a huge favor and turn away from guilt and shame and focus your attention on what will make you happy. Visualize and fully experience what it will be like to have, be or do what you want.
Tired of your career? Don’t think about all the reasons why you hate your current job, think about how good it will feel to be doing what you love or working in a place where you’re appreciated and valued for who you are and what you bring to the company. Notice the difference? It’s not about what you’re ‘quitting’, it’s about what you’re getting and how good that feels.
Most people have heard of SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) – I’ve developed a new acronym for goals & resolutions that embodies the positive emotion I’ve been speaking about.
HEART SMART Goals & New Year Resolutions
Honesty – Be honest with yourself. Take some time to be alone and think about what you really want, not just what you don’t want. If you need to start with writing a list of the things you no longer want, that’s fine, just make sure to turn each point around to its positive counterpart.
Enthusiasm – Think about (and feel about) things that literally make your heart sing!!! Will achieving and keeping this resolution make you happy? Does it make you happy now just thinking about it? If so, then it’s a resolution you’re likely to keep.
Accountability – Is this a goal that you’re really willing to commit to? Are you willing to be accountable to yourself? To others? If so, how will you hold yourself accountable? If not, where’s the resistance coming from?
Realistic – By all means start small and modest. If your realistic goal works out and makes you happy then keep doing it or increase its intensity. If you wanted to lose 50 pounds this year, start by committing and being accountable for the first 5 pounds. Then keep going if it makes you happy.
Timeframes – When will you start? What are your milestones going to be? How long will you give yourself before you decide if it’s working for you or if it needs adjustment? When will you check in with yourself?
Support – Is there anyone you can share this resolution with who can help you along the way? Who are you going to turn to for support? Or, if you’d rather keep it private, where can you find some confidential support?
Meaning – What does achieving this goal or keeping this resolution mean to you? What will it give you? What difference will it make? The more meaning and significance this resolution has for you – as shown by the powerful and positive emotions it invokes within you, the more likely you will succeed.
Acknowledgement – Take time to reflect and acknowledge yourself along the way. Things to take note of: your courage, commitment, persistence, bravery, honesty, accountability, and will, just to name a few.
Rewarding – Remember to reward yourself along the way. You can reward yourself when you achieve certain milestones or you can realize that keeping this heart-smart resolution is the true reward in itself. If you don’t feel that way, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate and reconsider. What is the reward that this resolution continually brings to your life?
Truth – Be true to yourself, always. This isn’t for anybody else but you (even if your family, friends, colleagues etc benefit from it as well) – this is about what makes you happy and makes your life better.
If we keep improving our selves as each year unfolds and we take time to reflect and acknowledge our achievements along the way, the future is bound to be a successful one (because you took the time to establish and work on achieving goals that were important and meaningful for you).
Wishing you a Very Happy New Year! May 2011 bring you many breakthroughs in your personal and professional life, may it be filled with new awareness, insights and possibilities, and may it be full of peace, happiness, love & light!