Heart, Inspiration

The Problem With Resolutions

The title of this is actually pretty hilarious. There are a multitude of problems with resolutions, all of which leads to the big problem: they rarely lead to lasting change.

Now, to be fair, I’m not really a resolution maker. I tried as a kid. It showed me setting unrealistic expectations to adopt the habits of (or, be) someone I am not is not particularly productive. So I stopped doing that. Some years I would reflect a little, maybe do some gentle intentions. Some years I would turn up my nose and scoff at all the resolution makers out there.

Then in strolled 2019 and lo and behold, what do I do but accidentally get all resolutiony. Now to be fair, I don’t have a giant master list and a map and a habit tracker. What I do have is a renewed sense of energy after a long and wonderful Christmas break. What I do have is some reflection and insight into what went “wrong” and left me feeling like I was just treading water for a couple of months before that break. What I do have is a sense of ambition and possibility.

It all feels pretty good. I’m not going to squash it all just to uphold some sense of rebellion. I’m going to roll with the energy while I have it.

That’s right…I’m full of resolve for a whole day.

I jest. Sort of.

The Problem With Today

Yesterday was my first back-to-work, routine sort of day this year. It went fantastic. I was full of productive focus. It didn’t even seem that hard.

So I got up today thinking it could all be replicated, those productive feelings channelled into a new day’s tasks. I started with the same steps. But after robe up, feed cat and pee (the morning routine of champions, to be sure) it started to feel fuzzy. I tried to push through and just start something. Then hesitated on which thing. Then felt distress. So I shut it down.

I stopped trying to prioritize one task or another. I stopped trying to jump in. I got quiet and consulted my inner voice. I gained real wisdom on why I prioritize certain things (or don’t). I got reassurance that it will all be ok.

Then I allowed myself quiet before asking, “What’s next for today?”

And in the quiet, the problem with resolutions dawned on me: They set the expectation for every day to be the same.

That, my friends, is a very unrealistic expectation. Certainly the external forces of every day are not the same. But nor are the internal ones. Your body will differ. So will your motivations and emotions. It’s totally fine. It’s normal. In fact, we are cyclical creatures by nature (especially women). We are fluid.

So sitting down on January 1 with a big list that says, “I will do this, this, this, this, and this on the 2, 3, 4, 5… and forevermore, ” is kind of a recipe for getting out of alignment. It’s a recipe for getting frustrated, slipping, and then using it as evidence of, “I just can’t change.”

So Can I Change?

Of course, I know I can change. I just don’t think it’s likely to come from some perpetual, repeating to-do list. This isn’t to say routine and habits aren’t powerful for some people. Even I have implemented some which are definite positives in my life.

However, I think fluidity and grace around habits is a wonderful thing. And I think establishing habits only really works when they are aligned with our true intentions, unblocked by our resistances. 

I know this is true. It’s why even in a year full of resolve, I didn’t write a list full of fixed, task-oriented goals (ie. keep house clean, finish my volunteer commitments ahead of deadlines, write X number of blog posts). It’s why my overarching “resolution” this year is to become conscious of — and hopefully shift — where I spend my time and why. I want to stop telling the story, “I don’t have enough time.” If I can do that, it doesn’t matter what I want to spend the time on — cleaning, volunteering, blogging, or something totally different — I will have it to spend.

Is Today a Problem?

Absolutely not. By outward measures, I have less to “show” for the first two hours of today than yesterday. I haven’t yet jumped into time-sensitive matters. 

Yet I know taking the time to really dive into the reason behind it is more valuable than forcing out, well, forced, work. Heck, staying in bed would have been more valuable than forcing it.

It’s funny, “Get up early,” was never on a list of tasks or goals or things I could do to help my time. For one, it’s not a big target for “changing” as I often get up early already. Also, I have spent enough mornings of vastly different productivity levels already to acutely recognize the time I rise isn’t the driver of my efficiency or wastefulness.

Yet still, In those groggy first moments of this morning, when I could choose to jump up or go back to sleep, the linear mind won out with, “Well you got an early start on yesterday’s good day.” The mind in me was attaching itself to ideas and writing it’s own set of (silly, old school) resolutions! I’m just glad it didn’t take long before I recognized the track it was taking me on.

So there it was. I had consciously and intentionally set resolutions designed for more success and less stress. Yet unconscious programming and old patterns had come to play. Of course they would. I mean, I know they are there every time I want to make a change around a particular topic, such as money or career, or whatever. I guess they also come with the idea of change itself!

I suppose it’s not always the resolutions fault then. So I’ll be adding one more intention to my year right now: To let go of more old patterns that don’t serve me.