It's the most wonderful time of the year. I hope that you are doing well and looking forward to this festive month. At this time of year, I love self-introspection and taking stock of my life. What have I accomplished this past year? What would I like to improve or change?
In just a few days, 40 to 50 percent of people will start 2016 with new resolutions, but after just one week, 25 percent of everyone will forget about their resolutions.
So why make New Year resolutions? Is it just a trend? Does it work or serve any purpose at all? Short answer, yes. Long answer, well, it depends.
We all know the power of intention "dream is destiny," the words of your mouth can help set the course for your victory or set the course for defeat but apparently it is even scientifically proven.
According to the book "The Upward Spiral" by Alex Korb, neuroscience shows that creating intentions and setting goals, engages the prefrontal cortex in a positive way. By reducing worry and anxiety, it contributes to efficient problem solving. That is why we suddenly feel good when we decide to change something, even before we spend any energy creating change. The benefits are many including fighting the urge that usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Setting goals may even change your perception of the world.
So how do we use the New Year marker to set effective resolutions?
Advice from the Betti-bossy of psychoanalysis
Since I am no specialist in this field, I decided to seek some help. And I
surely did get some goodies by seeking ‘the Betti-bossy of psychoanalysis' or ‘the Buddha of the nord-vaudois' like they call her here in Switzerland. Rosette Poletti, a well-known Swiss author, seems to have figured it all out. When I had the opportunity to interview her, I jumped at the chance. She is one of my favorite authors. I have been reading her column in "Le Matin" religiously and devouring all her books as soon as they were published.
The conversation I had with this remarkable woman was nothing short of amazing and I am deeply honored to have met her in person. Originally from Switzerland, she studied in both Switzerland and the United States and holds two master's degree (nursing and theology) and a PhD in educational sciences and psychology.
While our conversation in Starbucks only lasted a little over an hour, we chatted about everything – the career path, the symbolic meaning of time, relationships, dieting, the obsession of our society with abundance and the freedom that comes when you have compassion towards yourself. Rosette Poletti's candid responses to my questions provided great insight into how to live a fully explored and charged life.
Surprisingly enough, Poletti starts her new year with new resolutions as well. When I asked her why wait to improve something till the end of year, she answered that the symbolic meaning of time has a powerful effect on our western society.
How to set good resolutions and make them stick
1. Understand the need for change – and the reason you haven't achieved it until now
Living a meaningful life is not a luxury but a must. Giving meaning to one's life and to one's decision is a very important aspect of the human experience and makes it definitely more enjoyable. Some people claim that it is what sustains the human experience and keeps the soul and the personality in alignment.
Poletti studied this aspect in one of her books, "donner du sens à sa vie." In our context, she says that understanding our need to change something, or "why do I want to change," is the first step for creating change. We need to be consciously aware of what we want to change and why we want to change. Then, we need to figure out the obstacles that have been preventing us from turning that need for change into a reality. Bringing this entire dynamic into our consciousness and then taking the time to understand it will make our resolution much more powerful and efficient.
People need to find a meaning that profoundly resonated with his/her deep nature in order to maintain that self-confidence and thus act in an efficient way.
A good way of thinking about it, is asking yourself if you believe that you deserve better. Motivation is a key part of the change process.
Wanting to change, wanting more, being ambitious must not be mistaken with being covetous, insatiable or even avid. Our human experience is a journey, a journey where we naturally evolve, change and seek more
2. Pick a few achievable goals and track your success
Failing to accomplish our resolutions is a tradition that is as old as making them.
The expectation that we put on ourselves usually are so high that it makes us stress and set us up for failure. So what can we do to make them stick?
First, we need to carefully pick "achievable" goals. So definitely not starting our new year with a humongous amount of pressure because no matter how high and strong our motivation is, it will soon start waning. This is not a battle to be fought. On the contrary, it should be an enjoyable walk towards the change we are seeking to create.
Then we need to limit the number of goals to an essential few (a maximum of 3) and rank them in order of importance.
Finally, we should track and reward ourselves on every step towards success. We need to acknowledge the fact that we are actively seeking change and courageously attempting to do it, and make attribution to ourselves regarding that.
We can then integrate mini-goals as small milestones in the process, those will make each phase approachable, bringing us a little closer to our purpose and focusing our attention on the small steps rather than the stress of the end goal.
3. Never beat yourself up, give yourself ways to succeed
You need to understand that the key to long-term change is forming good habits. Studies have shown that it takes at least 21 days of persistence to change or create a habit.
Throughout this change, often, people will face failures. The key is not to see them as failure, but to see it as if we have been slowly diverging from our goal and purpose. Then kindly get back on track. Get back on track every time you fall, no matter how many times you fall.
Poletti is famous for her work in self-confidence. When we met, she insisted on the notion of self-compassion, which is slightly different and she says is an important aspect in the happiness habit. Having compassion towards one's self is having kindness towards one's self, never being harsh and critical but finding ways to make life better.
When we slip up just a little from a tight schedule on a new habit, we are more likely to abandon our goal and give up on all the progress we have already made. This is exactly what we should not do.
The journey needs to be filled with pleasure and change must be pursued from a comfortable place. We need to give ourselves ways to create this smooth change.
Now obviously any change needs hard work and discipline but the notion of pleasure and well-being needs to be an integral part of the process.
In those situations, as in any personal situation, Poletti invites us not to compare ourselves with others, not to incorporate this competitive marathon that is present all around us, into our personal life, into our personals goals. We are in constant evolution. We are on a personal journey.
So here's to setting successful New Year's resolutions that are more like proclamations than goals. I wish you all the luck in the world!