An Easy Way to Actually Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions
A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the beginning of 2020. For most of us though, it was more than just another party. It marked the beginning of a new year. But what is so special about this? What is it about the new year that makes us go all crazy and want to change our habits, lives, and waistlines so much? It doesn’t really make sense quite frankly. The only thing that changes is the last digit (fair enough — this time it’s even two) of the number hardly anyone actually writes down on their letters or notes anymore.
What really gets us excited in my opinion is the idea of a clean slate. We are sitting before that white sheet of paper again and feel like this could be it — this could become our masterpiece. 2020 could be the year we finally find our dream partner, achieve great things in the workplace, lose those extra pounds or achieve whatever else we have wanted for so long. For a little moment, we become hopeful dreamers and start fantasizing about all the great things we can achieve if we really want. After all, that is what we have been told thousands of times throughout our lives: You can achieve whatever you want.
Why is it that if we can attain everything we want, we hardly ever do? Why do most bold new years resolutions never become those fascinating stories of achievement but rather sad what ifs? The reason why we rarely actually accomplish what we set out to do is that most of the things we want simply cannot be achieved by one single decision or action.
We all know the deal: in a great alcohol-infused moment of consciousness beneath the fireworks we decide to change our lives. In that instance, we imagine what it will be like once we accomplish our goal. How would it feel? Mostly we associate an amazing feeling with the things we so innately desire. Then and there we fall in love with the idea. Well… Not quite the idea but rather the imaginary feeling we associate with that idea. That imagination then becomes our motivation which is supposed to fuel our journey to greatness.
So the next day we get started full of euphoria and in the beginning, it even seems easy. However, to attain what we want we usually need persistence. To quit smoking we have to resist the urge to smoke many thousands of times. To lose weight we have to choose apples over cookies consistently. Which sucks! Once we realize that, there usually comes a tipping point. The feeling we have set out to experience doesn’t come after one week — even after a month, it is not there. Instead, we find ourselves drowning in this whole lot of discomfort. This is usually when we start losing the momentum we have built up. We are running out of fuel. We then start making different choices than we did in the beginning. We choose comfort over discomfort and after a while, we just go back to how things always were. Wasn’t so bad after all…
So how can we refuel our motivation to turn the ship around before all of this happens? The way that I’ve found to be most effective is to try to consistently reconnect with myself along the way. For a moment, I stop thinking or acting and simply start feeling the discomfort. What seems trivial at first actually has a huge impact and usually fundamentally changes the state you are in. It will become easier, yet not because the discomfort will disappear — which it won’t. It will become easier as you slowly dissociate from the discomfort and see it for what it actually is: impermanent.
A while back I made a commitment to stop lying. What seemed like a straightforward and easy decision at first, soon became quite tricky in some situations. One day, for instance, I was preparing for an interview at a firm that used experience-based interviews, meaning that they would ask you to tell a story from your life in which you displayed a certain quality. They announced which qualities they would ask for beforehand, so applicants could prepare their stories. When trying to think of a story for one of the qualities, I soon came to the realization that I had no story that was convincing enough, outstanding enough, epic enough. I quickly became certain that, unless I made up a story, I surely wasn’t going to get the job. I just wasn’t enough. Immediately, I started thinking of some story that was impressive enough and I soon came up with one that would make me look like a total kick-ass.
Just when I started thinking about how I was going to tell it, I realized that I was actually in the middle of making plans on how to tell a lie — which I had decided not to do anymore. Kind of. But this was just too important. When I understood what my mind was just trying to rationalize past me, I stopped. I took a couple of deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. I remembered why it was that I didn’t want to tell lies anymore, especially in situations where the truth would expose me — make me vulnerable. Suddenly I knew what was the right thing to do. Everything then became very simple: I would just tell the truth. It would still be uncomfortable and probably not enough to get the job. Yet, it was the path I had set out to walk on. Discomfort over regret!
Making things easy again
Don’t get me wrong… There are many situations where I miss that very moment and just watch myself taking the easy way out. But if you are aware enough to catch yourself in a situation like that, take the chance and try to step back to look at things from a mindful and objective perspective. Provided that you took the decision for your resolution in a conscious state of mind, it is sort of like putting yourself back into the mindset that you had when making the decision. That mindset that made everything seem so easy, remember? It feels like you are suddenly back in the driver’s seat, refueled, stocked up with snacks and ready to charge right on down the highway to glory.
This step back can often be achieved by simple exercises like stopping whatever you are doing for a couple of seconds and trying to focus on your breath or body sensations — both are basically exercises of meditation. For thousands of years, these simple practices have helped people to refresh and declutter their busy minds for a moment to reconnect with themselves and their purpose again. Exercises like this can help you bring mindfulness to those little daily decisions that, when aggregated, make all the difference in turning your life into a more fulfilled journey.
The dissociation from comfort and discomfort to me is a core aspect of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a term that has been used a lot recently and many people have different definitions for what it is. What does being mindful actually mean? To be frank I’ll leave the exact definition to someone else. For me what is important is the result of what anything labeled as „mindful” brings to whoever practices it. If it makes life easier and more peaceful, it is mindful. If it doesn’t, it is not.
At the end of the day, this is what all of us, yet especially many young people who are growing up in today’s fast-paced, digital environment, are longing for: to reduce the complexity and noise by focusing on what really matters. My aim with this blog is to share what has worked for me and hopefully be able to contribute something to a more mindful generation. This is why I decided to call my new blog The Mindful Millennial.
On The Mindful Millennial I will write short articles on how to bring more mindfulness to different aspects of daily life: relationships, work, creativity, health, sex, (social) media… To help you achieve your goals, I will share the techniques and practices that have been useful to me and others in making life a more rewarding and joyful experience. Let me know your thoughts on this first article and if you have enjoyed it, feel free to subscribe and stay tuned for the next posts.