How many times have you made the same resolutions over and over, year after year, each time more determined to succeed and more frustrated and dejected when you do not? How many times do the failures of previous years stand in the way of your success for the coming year? Repeated failures are a heavy load to bear.
CUSP, the spiritual path Eric Rasbold, my husband and co-author, and I created nearly twenty years ago involves setting specific goals with the intention of manifesting the life the practitioner wants to live. Each December, our students carefully choose goals to work on through the coming year to make their lives better. Because of this, we have almost two decades of experience with directed, pro-active resolutions and the fulfillment of those goals. We have seen what works and what sabotages success.
Here are ten suggestions for making attainable New Year’s resolutions and staying on course to achieve them. Many of these suggestions are not what life coaches traditionally recommend, but they have worked for us and countless CUSP students. Make this your year of success that you can build on in years to come.
1) Make a list. Most people want more than one thing to change in their coming year, yet choose only one or two goals in order to be realistic. Instead, make a long list of ways you want your life to be different this time next year. Be ruthless. This list is for your eyes only and you should pretend you can achieve anything that you put on the list regardless of financial, personal, or social obstacles. Hint #1: a quick way to madness and disaster is to attempt to manifest a goal of ego and arrogance such as “self-actualization” or “self-mastery.” The Universe has a delightful sense of humor where goals of ego are concerned. Stick to the basics. Hint #2: Do not attempt to manifest a negative. Your brain and your higher self love nouns and ignore verbs, so when you tell your brain and your higher self that you want to “lose weight,” your brain and higher self register “weight” minus the “lose” part. Instead, focus on what you want to GAIN, not what you want to BANISH. Most goals can be turned inside out to find a suitable gain rather than the loss. For instance, add “physical fitness” to your list rather than “losing weight.”
2) Combine goals. Once you have completed your list, see what the goals have in common. For instance, wanting a new car, a better place to live, and a new wardrobe might combine into increased self-esteem, or prosperity. Wanting physical fitness, better eating habits, and freedom from smoking combines to health, strength, or wellness. Finding romance, improving family relations, and making more friends can combine into the goal of welcoming love. Embrace abstract goals rather than specific ones. Go deep and see what joined meaning the goals you listed hold for you.
3) Find the feeling behind the goal. Most self-help programs tell you to detail your goal to the tiniest variance,such as to vow to go to the gym three times a week or make four new job contacts a week. We tell you to do the opposite. It’s great to come up with a strategy for success and develop plans. For your actual goals and resolutions, however, look for the feeling that you attach to those specific outcomes. “I want to feel prosperous.” “I want to feel loved.” “I want to feel healthy and strong.” “I want to feel proud of myself.” “I want to feel beautiful.” Intention does not flow through a list of activities, but toward a feeling you want to manifest that you either do not now feel or do not feel enough. Identify the feeling and you will find the magical boost to reach that goal. By working towards a feeling rather than a particular action, you open the door for many ways that your goal can manifest.
4) Pace your goal. Too often, our efforts derail within a few weeks because we come into the process with guns blazing, then lose steam quickly. Do not see your goal as something you start on January 1st and continue forever, but as a growing, living process that you plant on January 1st and nurture through the year as it flourishes to fruition. Next winter, you will re-evaluate and determine how to progress this year’s goals further or create new goals for the coming year. Rather than starting out with a huge effort, start with smaller steps and build on them. Plan for your greatest success and ultimate fulfillment of your goal to occur around August or September. Think of your goal as a crop you are planting. You would not go into the fields, plant seeds, and expect to see your harvest the following week. Instead, decide what you will plant, then cultivate the soil, plant, nurture, and see the crop grow into its fulfillment over time. If you want to feel strong and healthy, take baby steps toward that goal rather than overwhelm yourself. Schedule a check up one week. The following week, go for a walk or step up your physical activity routine slightly. The next week, cut back or eliminate one unhealthy food you eat. The week after that, step up your physical activity again. Build your goal a little at a time instead of going all out in January. Putting everything into the first month causes most people to feel overwhelmed so that they run out of steam quickly. You want to build sustainable steps toward your goal and you do that by creating gradual change.
5) Connect with your higher power. Whether you invest in a deity or believe your higher power is yourself, tune into it. Pray, meditate, journal. Take a few minutes (or longer) each day to connect to whatever you perceive to be your higher power and focus on your goal during that time. Allow the feeling that you programmed into your ultimate goal to flow over you during this time, even though you are not there yet. Imagine what prosperity will feel like, what health and strength will feel like, what welcoming love into your life will feel like and let that feeling run through you. Say “thank you” to your higher power for assisting you and for the successful completion of your goal. Imagine that your success is already there.
6) See it to be it. Use visual cues to connect with your goal. Write notes that say “You are loved,” “You are beautiful,” “You are vibrant and healthy” and place them on your mirror, in your car, or other places where you will see them. Burn candles dedicated to your goal. Choose a stone or a talisman that represents your investment in your goal and keep in in your pocket or close to you. Rub it at times when you feel your dedication to the goal sagging. Make a vision board that gives your goal an appearance and a physical form before it is here. Do NOT use photos of how you used to be or how you used to look as your goal. We are moving FORWARD, not BACKWARD.
7) Be open. By focusing on the feeling rather than a specific attribute of that feeling, you open yourself to other ways for your goal to manifest. If you focus on health and strength rather than “I will go to the gym three times a week,” your goal can also encompass new ways to eat to support your goal or targeting vitamin deficiencies and system toxicities to heal. Keep your mind and your process open to all areas of health and strength and welcome new information and insight. If you work to manifest love in your life, welcome all forms of love around you, including family love, friend love, romantic love, and most importantly, self love.
8) Be patient with yourself. Rome was not built in a day and it takes years to establish the habits and situations we wish to change in our lives. Sometimes, it takes that long to reverse them. When (rarely “if”) you step off the path that takes you to your goal, do not let it derail you. Take a breath, reseat yourself in the goal, and begin again in that moment, not the next day. If you find you are slipping often in a week, stop and consider why you are resisting success, then center yourself back into the process. Often, the answer is simply, “It’s easier to do what I have always done.” If you truly want change, you have to overcome that answer. If you are not sufficiently invested in the change to overcome that answer, then it isn’t time yet. Regardless, be painfully honest with yourself and accept that if you do what you have always done, you will have what you have always had. Change must come from you, not from the outside, and it is very rarely easy.
9) Be fully accountable and mindful of your choices. The fastest way to failure is to blame our actions on others or on outside circumstances. This practice immediately relegates us to victim status. To be proactive, we have to admit that we ultimately make the choices in our lives. This involves tremendous honesty and accountability. We must break through the mindset that allows us to give our power over to others. “There was just too much pressure from others, so I had some drinks” actually means, “I wanted to fit in and be comfortable, so I drank alcohol when my goal is to quit.” When the weather is bad, we might make a conscious choice not to go to the gym, which is affected by outside circumstances, however the internal choice is if we choose not to work out in any way while at home. We must own our choices and be accountable for them, as well as the destiny and outcomes they create. Being accountable does not mean that you have to be transparent in a public forum or even tell others about your goals. It means being accountable to yourself and honest beyond reproach in your own inner dialog. With every choice, we must ask, “Does this behavior support my goal or not?” and act accordingly from there.
10) Make your goals about YOU and no one else. We can try to change for others and it is admirable to want to please those we care about. It is also admirable to want the best for those we love when we can see they are making harmful choices. The raw truth is that it is nearly impossible to get another person to change by the sheer force of your will and it is equally impossible to change because someone else wants you to. You must limit the focus of your resolution on yourself and make resolutions for yourself because it is the outcome YOU want. Do not lose weight because your partner wants you to. Do not make the resolution that you will get your spouse to stop drinking or your son to get a job. Resolutions that focus on you and your own wants will succeed far more often than those we set for others or because of others.
Best of luck to you in 2016 and I hope it is a year of tremendous success and accomplishment for all of you.