For years I made sweeping New Years resolutions. Losing weight was always on the top of list. The rest of the list consisted of a variety of things I wanted to change in my life. The items on the list were bound together like a sailors knot by the “should” word. My resolutions provided an opportunity to bring my shame out of the closet and write it on a piece of paper for all to see.
To make the effort even less satisfying, I would fail miserably, often by the middle of January.
But there is hope. With grey hair and age comes wisdom. Over the years I discovered the 3 secrets to making lasting, satisfying and fulfilling New Years resolutions.
One, start small.
This sounds kind of crazy at first, but hang with me. You need to lose 20 pounds. On your resolution list you write down, exercise 30 minutes a day, cut out sugar and white flour. Reach your goal of losing 20 pounds by July 1. By February 1 you’ve been to the gym twice, given up one opportunity for a cookie and haven’t lost any weight. What is wrong?
20 pounds is too big a bite. When we are taught to set goals it is always reach for the stars. And that is terrific, except when it comes to REALLY changing behavior. Change is hard. Big changes are even harder. When you decide to make sweeping behavior changes, you are setting yourself up for failure. When you make a small commitment, one that is easy to keep, you are setting yourself up for success. By taking the big goal and making it a small bite, you are exponentially more likely to achieve our goal.
Here is an example from my own life. I have been an intermittent meditator since I was 40. Like the intermittent setting on your windshield wipers, I turn on the meditation practice, then off, then on, then off. You get the picture. A few months ago, as I was in the off stage and I knew it was time to begin again. I set my goal to meditate 30 minutes a day. I failed miserably. I was so out of practice, 30 minutes seemed like an eternity. To make matters worse, it was so hard, I avoided meditating. Each day I didn’t meditate, the self-talk of shame would arise within me. Self-talk like, “you know you should be meditating, why didn’t you get up earlier, what is wrong with you!” It was awful. I felt worse about myself by the day.
Tired of being mired in my own negativity, I stepped back and realized I had not taken my own advice, start small. I set a new goal, 5 minutes a day. I put a post it on my bathroom mirror to remind me of my commitment to myself. Since it was a small change, it was easy to do. I stuck with it. After a few days, 5 minutes didn’t seem long enough. When the alarm went off, I wasn’t ready for the meditation to be over. I went to 7 minutes. I am now up to 12 minutes, and ready to kick it up a notch. Because it was small, the change was easy. Because it was easy, I kept my commitment to myself. As a result, my self-talk has been supportive, the “at a girl, you can do it” kind of feedback. Most importantly, I am reaping the benefits of daily meditation in my life such as being more peaceful and happy.
Maybe I will never get back to 30 minutes. Who cares? That was just something I read in a book somewhere that worked for somebody. But I am Mackey. I have to find out what works for me. When I set the goal I was so focused on the measurement, 30 minutes, that I lost track of the purpose, joy and happiness.
The simple truth is that the only path to a big goal is in the small steps. By breaking the big goal into little pieces, you set yourself up for success. Keeping promises is a way to build trust. There is no one you need to trust more than yourself. Be kind to yourself. Love who you are in this very moment. Fill your mind and heart with gratitude for your life. From this place, choose one thing to change and make it a small bite. Watch the miracles happen as you build trust and lasting change in your life.
In honor of small changes, I’ll explore the other two secrets over the next two weeks!
In joy and prosperity,