I know it’s a lot of talk about how to have a successful new year these days. And the tips provided typically deals with the importance of setting up goals for your health or career, and how to stick with them. And I’m sure you know it all in theory. But still the same happens again and again: The commitment to your New Years Resolutions about how to improve your life, made during the inspiring influence of champagne and fireworks, starts to fade as soon as every day life kicks in again.
Sure, you would like to start exercising, or eat healthier, or look for a new job, but right now you’re so busy handling your overwhelming to-do-list, so how could you possibly fit in another task? And so you say to yourself you’ll start tomorrow, or next week, or, well, as soon as things calmed down a bit. And before you know it, yet another year has passed. And it’s all just so frustrating, and, quite honest, depressing, right?
The reason we fail
First of all, failing is more common that succeeding on this one. That’s why smokers keep smoking year after year, that’s how someone can stay on their temporary job for 20 years. Because making changes IS difficult. But it’s even more difficult if you’re not entirely sure you want to make the change in the first place. And that’s more common than you’d first imagine.
Take smoking, as an example. “Everybody” knows it’s stupid to smoke. Most of us try to avoid to breathe polluted air, and we wouldn’t eat food that we know contains poison. But smokers regularly breathe dirty poisonous smoke right into their lungs, and they even pay a lot of money for doing this. So why don’t they stop? Sure, nicotine gives a kick and is addictive, but I’ve met quite a few people who, once they where totally convinced the WANTED to stop smoking quit immediately.
But most smokers, no matter what they might say, don’t really want to quit, and the reason why is quite interesting:
Smoking is a way for them to show that they have autonomy.
I’ve found that a surprisingly big number of smokers are not only very intelligent people but also persons who in other areas of life are very responsible and well-behaved, and who care a lot about what other people think.
It seems like smoking – consciously or unconsciously – is a way for them to step out from the “doing the right thing”-box and allow themselves to be rebellious. If they quit smoking, they’ll lose this safety valve and risk to be left with a feeling of not being in charge of their own life. Which, understandable, doesn’t seem very attractive.
What’s your “cigarets”?
The same seems to go for a lot of self-destructive behaviors. Personally I was never a smoker, but my subconscious can be very creative in inventing other “rebellious” actions. Sure I know I should pay my bills on time, or eat better, or avoid always being in the last-minute, but then some part of me yells she’s SO TIRED of always being so well-behaved, and so I end up eating nutella sandwich for lunch, or paying yet another penalty fee for a delayed bill, when I really ought to get better at speaking my mind in certain situations….
So before you can agree with yourself to quit smoking, or whatever it is that you think you “should” change, you need to either find another way of being rebellious, or you need to find a way to gain REAL autonomy in your life, which usually means to start caring less about what other people think and expect from you (or what you think they expect) and more about what you want yourself.
But this is hard to do if you’re well-behaved. Because that might upset people in your surrounding. It’s easier to do something that mostly affects yourself. Like smoking, or eating crappy food.
Finding a goal that truly matters
This smoking side-way has brought me to the point I wanted to make: If you’re not entirely sure your New Years Resolution will mean a real improvement for yourself, why should you stick to it?
The first step to be able to keep your promise to yourself is to make sure it is something that TRULY matters to you, not something that you think you SHOULD care about, but really don’t.
Now this is a bit tricky, since we VERY OFTEN confuse what we think we should think/want with what we really think/want. So in order to help you a bit on your way, I would like you to look a bit further than to what you want for this year, and imagine yourself as a very old person.
Imagine that your life is getting close to its end.
Your health is not so good anymore, and you can mostly spend your time in bed, with the company of your memories.
The day you’ve turned into this old man/lady:
What kind of life do you want to look back on?
What would you regret not having done? What would you have wanted to experience?
According to the finds of palliative nurse Bonnie Ware, author of „The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing“ the most common regret by people about to die is that
they wish they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected from them.
As you see, we’re back to the autonomy-issue. The issue that makes lots of us behave strangely self destructive in order to be “rebellious”.
If you’re somehow feeling you’re not living a life true to yourself, maybe it’s time to start making some changes while you still can – since I’m sure you don’t want to end up like the people this nurse met. If you want to, you can look into the complete list from Ware’s book for inspiration:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Then take a blank paper and make a bucket list of 5 or more things you think you will regret if you don’t change or achieve before you die. (Don’t limit yourself to think about what you think is possible, since the truth is, no-one can tell what is possible – the only way to find out is to try!)
And THEN it’s time to make a real plan, to see what is possible to achieve already this year. And make this your new “New Years Resolution”.
Finally, get the support system you need for making it happen. Because, hopefully, you will have a long and rewarding life, but for that there’s no such thing as a guarantee.
So if it should turn out you only have ten years left, or five or even one – making a strong start already now will improve the chance you’ll feel that you made the best of the time you were given here on earth, whenever it’s time to leave.
Did you just get stressed out?
Sorry if I made you nervous with all this talk about dying. But I really think it’s such an important reminder –
we all too easy postpone the things that matters most to us to “someday”, which, unfortunately, for many people, in reality turns out to be “never”. And I don’t want that to happen to you!!!
So if you got the feeling that you indeed need to do some changes in your life, in order to make your future (and present) self happy, but you’re not entirely sure about what or how to do, how about getting some help to find out?
How about 60 minutes FREE counceling? (no hidden costs or commitments)
Right now I’m giving away a limited number of “Find your vision”-sessions (value 85 euro) totally FREE. During a 60 minutes Skype/telephone meeting, I’ll guide you through a series of powerful questions and exercises that will help you find out where you want to go, and I’ll also provide you with a plan for how you can make it happen. To find out more and book your session, click HERE.
Over to you
Do you think it’s useful or mostly stressful to involve the thought of death in planning for the future? Do you already know what you want to change this year to avoid regrets on your death-bed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
PS. pass it on 🙂
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