Happy New Year!
New Year’s Resolutions for most of us are simply another holiday ritual. Whatever the reason – a deep, primal need for renewal, temporary guilt and self-loathing brought on by a holiday of hyper consumption, or both – the majority of us resolve to better ourselves almost before the shortbread and egg nog season is over.
The fact that most of these resolutions are abandoned before the first month of the year is over doesn’t seem to deter us from the annual ritual of making resolutions. When the resolutions do stick, it’s usually when we (unwittingly) invoke the best of the two drives that permeate so much of our lives. Applying the twin elements of Balanced Leadership – the fear-based and the love-based worlds – can make all the difference.
One of the most common reasons resolutions fade quickly is the mindset we bring to them. We think resolutions are all about the fear-based attributes of self-discipline, sacrifice and perseverance, about being strong so we can avoid the temptations that we’re trying to overcome – be it smoking, eating or being a couch potato. Yes, setting goals and sticking to them matter, but understanding why you want to improve – the meaning behind your resolution – matters just as much or more. When we can tap into our love-based drive for deeper meaning and connection with self, it provides the fuel that sustains our desire to improve.
Another aspect of Balanced Leadership that helps us stick to resolutions is knowing the difference between gifts and rewards in this context. In the fear-based world, rewards are payment for the hardship it takes to reach a goal or make strides towards it. Rewards motivate us to keep going, and can play a big part in sticking with our resolutions.
Gifts, on the other hand, are also important. We give and receive gifts not for what has been accomplished, but simply to celebrate the person. Rewards are about doing, gifts are about being. Gifts to ourselves serve as affirmations of our intrinsic worth: we don’t need to attain a certain goal (no matter how laudable) to be whole or to matter. As we work on our resolutions, the gift of self-acceptance is as important as the reward for making progress towards a goal. Balanced Leadership reminds us of the value of both doing and being.
Be conscious of the gifts to yourself that not only keep you on track, but remind you of your ability to feel joy. How often do we fail in our resolutions because we are down on ourselves, or we get down, and the thing we are trying to change is the way we usually make ourselves feel better (for a brief moment)? The impulse to treat yourself is a good one. Now find good ways to do that. Have your favorite music and a good cup of tea ready for yourself. Decide to buy yourself a good magazine to indulge in images of what you love, especially useful at the first sign of weakening. Use gifts to yourself to remind you of your right to feel love simply for being alive.
Finally, activating the best of both worlds can help us when our resolve to improve falters (e.g. you had that brownie, snuck a smoke, skipped a workout, whatever our resolution is). In the fear-based world, we shrug it off and get back on the “horse of discipline.” No blaming others or self-criticism, just get back on track.
In the love based world it also helps if we’re curious about why we slip up. What was on our minds at the time? Why were we able to resist the temptation one day but not the next? What can I learn about myself through this experience? The curiosity of the love-based world contributes to our growth and development as much as the discipline of the fear-based world.
Balanced Leadership recognizes that New Year’s Resolutions can work if we combine the tenacity, self-sacrifice and striving of the fear-based world with the curiosity, self-acceptance and meaning of the love-based world.
Again, Happy New Year, and best of luck with your resolutions!