New Year's Reflections, Resolutions and You: 2015 Edition

Today is January 1, 2015 and it's the day that my Facebook newsfeed goes insane with new year posts. Posts about what 2014 was like, and posts about what awaits in 2015. There are two themes (among others) that I've noticed in these posts which I will now sum up in broad, sweeping, generalized statements, followed by some life coachy stuff. (Also be warned, I seem to be into Harry Potter and Star Wars references today.) Hope you enjoy!

Broad, sweeping, generalized statement # 1:

  • Dear 2014: Every single day we spent together sucked the very life from my soul the way a Dementor drains peace, hope and happiness from the very air around it. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. Now hurry up and get here, 2015 so I can ditch this crappy year. 

If my 2014 really looked as awful as this, I'd want it gone too.

Where's my chocolate?

Realistically, many people are posting that they had a crappy year. They can't wait to write a new chapter and leave 2014 in the dust. Wait a minute... that sounds like last year. And the year before. Hmmm....

Life Coachy Stuff:

The fact is, if you 

believe

 you had a shitty year, then that's what you'll see. For the most part (with some exceptions) each year gives us its fair share of ups and downs. It's called life, and we have no control over most of what happens to us. What we do have control over is

our thoughts about what happens to us

If you choose to believe that 2014 was like being in 

Azkaban Prison

 then chances are 2015 will be no different. And who wants to spend another year in mind prison? Not me!

Want to improve the view and start off down a better path in 2015? Change the reflection in your rearview mirror. It's your mirror, you can move it around to make it reflect whatever you want. Take a few moments to really objectively reflect on your year. Grab a pen and paper and write down at least 10 instances you can recall of something good happening in 2014. Don't limit yourself to big ticket items, small things can hold the most surprises and goodness. Try not to quit until you've listed at least 10 good things. I bet you can come up with more than 10. It's easy to reflect on the negative and this path can be so well-worn in our minds that we choose it without even realizing it. This simple little writing exercise will start forging a new and different path through your mind so it might seem hard at first. Good. That means it's working. Keep at it. Hell, e

ven Darth Vader had some good in him, so I'm willing to bet there was some good in your 2014 too.

Try doing this exercise monthly as 2015 unfolds. Then at the end of the year, take a look back. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Broad, sweeping, generalized statement # 2:

  • This new year will be the best year of my life! I'm going to quit smoking, lose 150 lbs, organize all of my earthly possessions by colour, size and date of purchase, write my memoirs, find My Perfect Soul Mate, learn to play the harpsichord, and be the perfect Mom, sister, friend, daughter, Dad, colleague, brother, self that I can be! YAY!

Many people are also posting about their fabulous new year's resolutions. The sentiment is great and I am definitely the first to climb onto my soap box to yap about the power of personal change, but gear down there, big rig. The reality is that we often bite off more than we can chew as these 

statistics about New Year's Resolutions

 from the University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Psychology show:

The percentage of Americans who usually make New Year's Resolutions is 45%. We're off to a great start, but out of this group only 8% are successful in achieving their resolutions. The rest either have infrequent success or never succeed and fail at their resolutions each year. That's a bit of a bummer. 

Life Coachy Stuff:

The same study did show that people who

explicitly

make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't

explicitly

make resolutions. Huh. They used the word 'explicitly' twice. So I got to thinking about what 'explicitly' really means.

The study noted that the top 3 resolutions in 2014 were to 'lose weight', 'get organized' and to 'spend less and save more'. I didn't think that any of these sounded very

explicit,

 rather they seemed quite broad and unfocussed and I found myself asking lots of follow up questions like: Lose how much weight? Ways to lose weight? Organize what area of life? Organize the entire house and everyone in it? Spend less on what? What are the savings to be used for?

The key to keeping a resolution seems to be all about how the resolution is made, and the study used the word 'explicitly' explicitly. For a resolution to be made explicitly it needs to be made:

  • in writing - committing your resolution to paper forces you to really think about how to make it into a fully formed idea. If your resolution is to lose weight simply thinking about losing weight won't make it happen. Write it down and really look at the words you're committing to paper. Ask yourself if your words fully capture what you're aiming for. Why are you making this resolution? If you succeed in keeping your resolution, what will your life look like at the end of the year? Those are the reasons for your resolution and you can reread them whenever you need get back on track. 
  • with focus - your goal to lose weight won't work if you don't focus on the real changes you need to make to get there. Again, simply writing down that you want to lose weight isn't enough. How much weight do you want to lose? How do you want to lose weight, diet and/or exercise? What other benefits besides losing weight will exercise bring to you?
  • realistically - think of your goal broadly and ask yourself if it's realistic that you will be able to make a major change in lifestyle all at once and then maintain it over the long term. It's been proven that making smaller changes over a longer period of time results in greater chances of long-term success. Try writing out your resolution as a series of steps on a ladder designed to get you to your goal by the end of the year. For example, if you want to lose 35 pounds over the next 12 months, your first month's mini goals might be to keep a food journal and go for a walk around the block after supper twice a week. Building on those goals your next set of mini goals might be to examine your journal and eliminate one unhealthy eating habit and walk for 30 minutes every other day. The process of setting mini goals makes it less intimidating to set a resolution because it gives you achievable steps to your main goal and you can use the success of achieving your mini goals to carry you forward. Don't be afraid to start small. If you find you're not meeting your mini goals, start smaller. 

We all know that the broad, sweeping, general statements aren't as extreme as I've written them out today, but we laugh because there is a part of us that relates to the 

ideas and thoughts 

behind them. Remember that you can change your view at any time by changing your thoughts.

Wishing you a blessed and happy new year in 2015.

Michelle.