Have you ever set New Year’s resolutions only to find that by the end of January you have already forgotten about all of them? Or that there is this nagging feeling every time you “force” yourself to follow up on them? How is it, that while we feel so exuberant and ready to start afresh at New Year’s, it often feels like hard work to keep that momentum going?

Don’t get me wrong, it is possible that New Year’s resolutions totally work for you and that’s great, in that case keep going! This little piece, however, is for folks who struggle following through and offers them a different perspective …

Not an ideal time for new beginnings …

Someone I followed (unfortunately I don’t remember who exactly) once shared why they believed that New Year’s is actually a bad time to make resolutions, and it totally resonates with me: Winter is not the ideal season for new beginnings!

New Year’s happens in the middle of winter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), a time when all of Nature is in slumber or hibernation, or at least taking a break. And we humans are part of Nature (believe it or not ;-)), so why should we be any different? At the time of New Year’s, our systems are trying to slow down, rest and recuperate, not initiate something new. And only once this phase of the cycle (that underlies all of Life) is complete, will we have the energy to initiate new projects and start calling in and nurturing what we desire.

… and we make it mean something about us

To make matters worse, when we fail to keep our resolutions, we often ascribe the failure to ourselves, beating ourselves up about it: Maybe we did something wrong, maybe we are wrong, a failure. Maybe we “don’t have it in us”, weren’t persistent enough, didn’t want it badly enough. Basically, we make it mean something about us.

We beat ourselves up for not achieving goals that WE have set – while WE are the only ones who can change them, if we wanted to ;-)!
And what if there is nothing wrong with us? (Hint: There is nothing wrong with us! Each one of us is a perfectly imperfect human being, YOU are a perfect human being!) What if it is simply not the right time/phase in your cycle, in the cycle of life?

What can we do instead?

Winter is a time for stillness, for drawing deep within and even for reflection on who we are and who we want to be(come) in this next phase/cycle of our lives. So instead of setting precise and often somewhat strict “goals” (often attached to a deadline, the word in itself already implying “you better reach it or you’ll die…”), how about we become clear on how we want to live our life, how we would like to feel on a daily basis?

Instead of setting a fixed goal, like “I want to lose 5 pounds by February.”, “I want to go to the gym 3 times a week this year.” (just to name some of the typical New Year’s Resolutions people set), what if we chose a guiding word like “health” and measured our thoughts and actions against it? “Will a third piece of cake make me feel healthier?”, “Will I feel happy and mentally healthy when I keep calling myself a “moron who can’t get anything right!”?”, “Is the relationship with person X healthy for me, does it (mostly) feel joyful and expansive?”

This way, we have more of a guiding light that keeps us anchored in the feeling behind our goal or resolution. AND it’ll help transform more than just one aspect or area in our life.

My personal example

My word of last year was “Fun”/”Having Fun”.
Does it mean every moment and every action in my life was/is fun? Nope! Far from it … AND, in every moment I have the chance to pause and ask myself “How can I make this (task, situation etc.) more fun for me?”

This year my word is “simplicity”.
I love making things (much) more complicated than necessary, but it takes away all the lightheartedness and joy of life. So throughout the year I’ll ask myself “How simple can I make it for me?” or “How can I make it 1% more simple?” – and then just see what happens …

Now, over to you: Do you have a vision, a word that you can check back in on throughout your day or week? Take a few moments to really get clear on the feeling you wish to experience… because ultimately, whatever goal we set for ourselves, it is usually the feeling we associate with it that we’re after!

[The desire to lose weight or do sports can indicate that we want to simply feel fit and healthy. The desire to earn more money can indicate the wish to feel supported or free to make our own schedule. The desire to spend more time with friends/family can stand for the feeling of connection, being more in the moment or more intentional with our time.]

What word/feeling/phrase do you choose for your year or the next phase in your life?