It's that time of year again when we feel compelled to make New Year's
Resolutions. There are so many things wrong with doing this to ourselves
-- from looking at ourselves so critically that we end up aiming for a
New Year's Revolution, to setting ourselves up to certain failure on an
accelerated time-line. It may be time to change our way of thinking
about creating our vision of the new year ahead of us.
Baby New Year and Father Time (Public Domain Image)
One of the problems with the typical resolution is that we spend a great deal of time thinking of everything that is wrong with us. This places us in a negative mindset and robs us of any positive energy we need to be able to make those very changes. Very often those "wrongs" are not what we have much of a problem with so much as it is what others have assigned to us, from parents to society at large.
Another problem with standard resolutions is that they are very broad and general without specific goals. Many people resolve to lose weight in the new year. This isn't likely to be a new issue in your life and not something easily undertaken, so we fail almost immediately. Yet we consistently toss resolutions like this off without a serious plan or realistic goal.
Some people make an entire list of resolutions that becomes daunting by the time they get to the end of it. Is there really that much wrong with your life? It's setting yourself up to fail because it is just so much. No one can handle that much at one time.
It's time to try non-resolutions. What is that exactly? Well, to be honest, there is nothing exact about it. Basically you select something to NOT change about your life. There are different takes on how to go about this.
Daniel Pink, a best-selling author of business books, lays out his approach on his website. It is based in the old psychological adage "Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. He starts out pointing out that we don't take this concept into the process of making resolutions. We tend to repeat the patterns in our lives rather than change them. Because of this we set ourselves up to fail.
He suggests that we select to NOT change something in our lives. It is something like using a form of reverse psychology on yourself.
Pink explains that this falls into the theory of behavioral economics which provides an unusual solution. "When you want to change a behavior, aim to reduce the variability in your behavior, not the behavior itself," he says on the website.
As an example he lays out that a person who wants to quit smoking to instead make a non-resolution to smoke exactly the same number of cigarettes every day as opposed to smoking less or quitting outright. Research has shown that people who do this eventually begin to smoke less, even when they are directly told not to.
He says that removing the belief that tomorrow will somehow be different, the person cannot rely on that pretenst. Each cigarette smoked today means that it must also be smoked tomorrow, and the day after that. This reality check is supposed to be able to create change.
Another form of non-resolution comes in the form of deciding how you are NOT going to treat yourself in the new year. There is an idea out there to give up negative thinking for Lent. Some non-resolutions can be like this. Instead of flat out saying that you won't do thus and so, you start to intercept your thinking in certain situations. Like beating yourself up mentally and emotionally. When you catch yourself indulging in a thought like this turn it into something positive.
On the Today Show this morning, actress Jane Lynch was talking about such non-resolutions. She said that this year she has chosen not to wake up every morning trying to start a diet -- again and again. She wants to move past the negative treadmill of thought that this puts her into.
For me, when I do something dumb I want to change saying "I'm an idiot" to "Wow! I learned something new there!"
A third type of non-resolution is selecting the things that are wonderful about you and focusing on that. "I am a good person and I will continue to be so." Sources: Daniel H. Pink, Larder Love, The Today Show