Deepen Your Practice

New Year's Resolutions: Yay? or Nay!

About 40% of Americans make New Year's Resolutions (that's more people than watch the Superbowl!). And yet only 8% actually achieve the goals they set out for themselves. 

I used to pride myself on my resolution not to make resolutions; the truth is, I just sucked at follow through. I failed to reach my goals so instead of risking failure, I claimed to be above such silly traditions. But whether or not I voiced my goals on Jan 1, I was constantly setting personal intentions that looked remarkably like the typical New Year's Resolutions I mocked.

Here is Neilson's list of the top 10 resolutions for 2015 (pretty much any year you pull up looks the same):

  1. Stay fit and healthy
  2. Lose weight
  3. Enjoy life to the fullest
  4. Spend less, save more
  5. Spend more time with family and friends
  6. Get organized
  7. Will not make any resolutions (I'm apparently not very original!)
  8. Learn something new; new hobby
  9. Travel more
  10. Read more

When I read that list, I think, hell yes! Those are great resolutions. We are not all that different from each other. We want the same things. So why don't we achieve them? Is it really that hard to stay fit and healthy? To travel more? To spend more time with friends and family?

Articles about how to craft your resolutions so you are successful this year are plentiful. This is not just another one of those! I'm not about to tell you that the reason you haven't achieved your goals is that you weren't specific enough, or that you set the bar too high. As a matter of fact, I have a somewhat different opinion on why my own resolutions failed. I think it's because I looked outside of myself. I made a resolution to exercise more but didn't take the time to figure out why I wasn't happy with myself the way I was. Why was I not exercising in the first place? What story was I telling myself that was resulting in my not exercising, even though I said it was something I wanted. 

I made excuses like I don't have time, but I made time for other things. The problem is not time. The problem is that I am fighting a war with myself. Jack Kornfield says in A Path With Heart that, "we cannot easily change ourselves for the better through an act of will... When we struggle to change ourselves, we, in fact, only continue the patterns of self-judgement and aggression... and in the end, often strengthen the addiction or denial we intend to change." 
He challenges us to stop fighting the war against ourselves and instead learn to let go of these internal battles, but he also warns us that when we let go of the battle, we must come to terms with what we have truly been running from - loneliness, unworthiness, shame, unfilled desires, etc. The only way to do this is to "rest in the present moment." 

He doesn't pretend that this is easy, and neither will I! Stopping the war happens over and over and over again. To truly stay in the present means allowing myself to feel pain and sadness as well as joy. 

I plan to make my own set of New Year's Resolutions this year (a very big part of that is the 6 Week New Year's Challenge), and I hope you do too. I also hope that you will join me in utilizing this meditation before you finalize your resolutions for the new year. Let's begin 2017 by stopping the war, and then let's resolve to keep doing it all year long.