We’re only a few short weeks out from the turn of the New Year, and thoughts of resolutions, fresh starts, and big dreams have been at the forefront of my mind. In particular, I’ve been thinking about how and why so many of us make the same resolutions every year, only to inevitably break and abandon them by February.
Think about it. Every year, we get all fired up about our “next big thing”. We buy the equipment, make the appointment – whatever – and are super psyched for about three days. Then it starts to suck, but we grit our teeth and force ourselves to slog on. By the end of the second week of January, we are so done. We throw in the towel, toss the equipment in a closet somewhere, burn the gym membership card, and go back to our old routines.
What do you say we agree to break the cycle in 2016?
How, you ask? Well, let’s start by considering an idea that is simultaneously crazy simple and profound: we routinely fail to succeed at our New Year’s Resolutions because they don’t align with our personal definition of “good”. When we set our goals based on someone’s else’s dream, standard, or expectation, that is in conflict with our personal definition of “good”, we set ourselves up to fail.
The erudite Modern Mrs. Darcy recently talked about people having different ideas of what constitutes “good” in a post on taking her kids to New York City. While making a (quick but important) decision about where to eat as a family the last night of their trip, she and her husband were running through their list of options and mentally reviewing their previous dining experiences. As they compared their opinions of where they’d eaten to their kids’ reactions, she “realized we’d been thinking of a “good” restaurant—by our standards. But that wasn’t my kids’ idea of good.”
Where the adults swooned over a cafe’s good atmosphere or truly amazing food, the kids were awed by entirely different facets of a meal: “They like quantity, and they like choices. They like tasty food, but they’re not quite as discerning on that score yet.” While there was plenty of middle ground, they had very different ideas of what made something “good”. In the end, the Darcys opted for a simple diner that was low on atmosphere, but high on options. The result? “The pizza was decent, not amazing. But the kids thought it was good. The kids thought it was great. Because their definition is not my own.” (Emphasis mine.)
This same dynamic comes into play when we set our New Year’s Resolutions (or decide to make lifestyle changes at any time of year). If we base our decisions on someone else’s definition of good, we’re doomed to fail. (If the resolution directly opposes something in our definition of good, we spin out twice as fast!) After all, most of us already spend huge chunks of our lives at school or work, funneling time and energy into things we don’t find meaningful, simply because we don’t have any choice. Who wants to squander even more on one more hollow, unrewarding pursuit?
What do you say – are you willing to try something different with me this year? Let’s define what “good” means to us and start there.
Between now and New Year’s, I challenge you to think about what your personal good looks like. What would make 2016 truly beautiful, wonderful, fulfilling, or happy for you? Maybe your good looks like giving yourself permission to not feel guilty about eating the foods you love. Maybe it looks like taking relaxing walks with your dog where you can just think, instead of going to the gym and stressing about your weight. Maybe your good doesn’t relate to food or fitness at all – and that’s okay!
Give yourself permission to ask tough questions and paint an honest, authentic picture of what your “good” looks like. Then, if you’re going to make a resolution, make it something that fuels the creation of your good. Say no to anything and everything else, and decide to just pour your energy into what matters to you in the new year. Why? Because success breeds success, and the positive energy and forward momentum that come from feeding your soul will do you more good than all the salads or squats in the world!
What does your “good” look like? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!