Designing Resolutions for Real Change

Every January, I reflect on the year that has passed. What was accomplished and what remained undone?  I consider the outcomes that I’d like to see in my life, and set out upon the New Year with a fresh set of goals and intentions.

As January approached this year I found myself talking a lot about building healthy habits, which got me to thinking about how our habits and our resolutions interact.

If you’re like me, your resolutions might sound something like these:  I will increase my savings by $XX.  I will run the NYC marathon in 2014.  I will fit into that little black dress.  I will get anxiety under control.  I am done with procrastination!  I will finally stop (insert your favorite vice).  I will get along with (insert your most challenging relationship).  And on and on.

The intentions behind these goals are admirable, however, intention alone does little to sustain you on the path to true change.  January may see some progress based on sheer willpower alone, but as the year rolls on, our best intentions often fade and old habits take over.

So what’s a well-meaning person to do?

Let’s take a step back and reconsider those resolutions.  If you notice, all of the above are outcome related.  Sure, they give you an end to work toward, but it’s been said that a goal without a plan is really nothing more than a wish.

The impetus is spot on – you need to know where you want to go, but many times we stop at the intentions.  Instead, let them direct you toward process resolutions.  For example, the goal to have a better relationship with my father this year could become a resolution to have a video chat with him once a week.

The intention to run the NYC marathon in 2014 could become a resolution to run 3 times every week.

The intention to bring anxiety under control could become a resolution to practice 5 minutes of mindful breathing exercises every morning/night.

The beauty of these process resolutions is that when you commit to them, they begin affecting your habits, and the outcomes of your habits are what make you who you are right now.  If you can change your habits you can do anything!

So tell me, what intention were you resolving for 2014, and what process will you build into your life to make it happen, starting now?