My Secret Recipe for Successful New Year’s Resolutions
It’s so much fun to make New Year’s resolutions because it fills us with hope and a fresh sense of new beginnings. We just know that this will be the year that we finally reach our goals and do what we intend!
We enter the new year filled with fresh hope and optimism, and a belief that somehow this year will be different. But then something happens. Somehow January quickly fades into being just like all of the other months in the previous year. Our resolutions are soon forgotten, and we continue on with the same status quo experience, wondering why we continue to fail at this.
Is it that New Year’s resolutions don’t work? Or is it that we don’t know the best way to go about being successful in our intentions?
New Year’s resolutions can work just fine, but only if we add all the right ingredients. It’s like baking a cake. If you try to bake a cake with only one ingredient, your cake will fail. But if you add the right mix of ingredients, and do things in the right order, your cake will be a smashing success.
Simply making a New Year’s resolution and then assuming things will turn out the way you want, is like baking a cake using only flour with no cooking. It won’t be a cake. Does this mean you’re a failure at baking cakes? No, it just means that you left a few things out.
So let’s talk about the other ingredients that you should add to your New Year’s Resolutions, and how to combine them, in order to be successful. Here’s the secret recipe!
1 – Release the Previous Year
Since we are using cooking analogies, think about this. If you try to pile your New Year’s resolutions on top of all of your previous year’s experiences, it’s like getting a bowl of old leftovers out of your refrigerator and adding fresh ingredients for a new dish right on top of them. Yuck! That’s not going to work out too well, is it?
Your behavior patterns from last year are probably pretty firmly entrenched. Just saying that you want to be different is not enough to transform those patterns. The patterns likely have a lot more energy than a one-time wish to change them at the end of every year.
So the first thing to do is to clear your mind and your consciousness of any references to those patterns, when you make your decisions about the coming year. You can do this by letting go in the following way:
- Spend some time contemplating your feelings about the past year. What are the things you didn’t like? What habits are you tired of? Do you feel guilty about anything that happened? Whatever happened last year that you perceive as negative, now is the time to let them go. Let the River of Time carry those things away from you. Watch them as they drift downstream into the past.
- As you watch those unwanted experiences drift away from you forever, turn inwards toward your heart. Recognize that you did the very best you could under the circumstances. It is okay to forgive yourself, and release it all. Those unhappy moments will never recur again.
- Next, you should contemplate everything you experienced that was positive. What are the great things that happened for you? What did you accomplish? What positive lessons did you learn? And what habits do you want to keep because they are good for you? You can even make a written list of these positive outcomes.
- Now once again, turn inwards toward your heart. Acknowledge yourself for these positive things and be happy!
Once you have completed the four things listed above, you are ready to let the entire year go. Take a deep, refreshing breath and say goodbye to the previous year. Release it all with your goodwill and blessings. Now you have a clean slate from which to begin the upcoming new year!
2 – Set Your New Intention
Write down 3 to 5 major things that you would like to accomplish or change in the upcoming year. (You can also make it fewer than this, if you want to.) They can be goals that you set, or habits and patterns that you want to change. This is important so you know what you are aiming for.
Next, review each of these individually. Close your eyes and picture yourself achieving each one. Create the scene in your imagination. How does it feel? What are the positive differences in your life as a result of accomplishing these things?
Wouldn’t it be great to have these positive things on your written list of accomplishments at the end of next year, if you decide to do this process again? Imagine how fulfilling that would be!
This step is important because it builds desire. Without desire, you will not be able to do what you set out to do. The killer of most New Year’s resolutions is underfunded desire. It’s important to keep yourself inspired!
3 – Divide the Year into Quarters
Don’t try to take on the whole year at once. Your attention will fizzle out because it’s too much to remember. Divide the year into four 3 month periods, starting with January through March.
Now look at your list of intentions. Write down one or more main things that you will accomplish toward each one during each of those four periods.
For example, lets say you have an intention to start exercising regularly. How do you measure that accomplishment at the end of the year? Maybe you decide that you will know you have done it when you are walking, doing yoga, or going to the gym three times each week, as a regular habit.
So what are you going to do from January to the end of March in this regard? Do you need to check with your doctor before you start? Do you need to join a gym or a class? Do you need to purchase some fitness clothes? Make a short list of the basics that you will need to do to get the ball rolling during the first 3 months of the year.
Next, look at April through June. Write down what you will need to do during these 3 months. If we continue with our fitness example, maybe these 3 months will be devoted to consistency. Then repeat this process for July through September, and October through December.
Now, once again, close your eyes and envision yourself at the end of next December having fulfilled this intention throughout the year. Think about how great you will feel!
4 – Keep Your Focus and Desire
Now that you know where you are going, it is important that you maintain the fuel and the focus to get there. The fuel is your ongoing desire to succeed, and your focus can be maintained by simply remembering what it is you set out to do. Here is how to do both:
Focus: You maintain focus by paying attention to where you are in the process. At the end of each month, start thinking about the next month ahead. You will have approximately four weeks during that next month to focus on the change you intended to make. Pay attention to what you are doing during those four weeks in regard to your resolution.
Desire: There is no amount of focus in the world that will help you, if you lose your desire. Desire is like fuel in a car. You can have a beautiful car, but if you don’t have fuel, that car isn’t going anywhere. Likewise, you can have the best of intentions, but if you lose interest, it’s all over.
Think of desire like fanning the flames of a fire. If you build a fire in a fireplace, you have to make sure that you pay attention to fanning the flames and adding more wood, whenever the flames begin to subside. Otherwise, that fire is going to burn out and be very difficult to resurrect.
In the case of your resolution, the idea is to keep the fire of your intention burning brightly, by maintaining your desire and inspiration. This is best done by engaging your imagination. Whenever you feel your interest waning, find ways to re-envision your original intention, and how happy you’ll feel when you accomplish it.
5 – What to Do When You Fail
You will most certainly encounter setbacks in fulfilling your intention throughout the year. There will be times when you are just not doing what you set out to do. This does not mean that you should quit!
Instead, what you should do is start over again. The only reason that you may have these failures is because the old habits of thinking and behavior are so firmly entrenched. It’s important to understand this, so you don’t see failure as a sign that you should give up. There is a perfectly good reason for these failures, and you should incorporate that understanding into your thinking.
Just remember not to make false excuses for the failures. Making excuses might mitigate guilt, but it will also undermine your will. Instead, realize that the reason for intermittent failures is because it takes a certain amount of effort to overcome and transmute old habits. There will be times when you feel strong in doing this, and other times – not so much. Just persevere anyway, and remember the bigger picture. Eventually, your strength will win out, and your resolution will be realized.
6 – Enjoy the Fruits!
Embarking on New Year’s resolutions is not something that you do just in January. In that case, it would be January resolutions, wouldn’t it? A New Year’s resolution is about the entire year.
If we go back to our cake baking analogy, we could say that it takes an entire year to bake this cake. And if you pretend that your oven is a wood-burning stove, then you know that you have to keep that endeavor fed with desire, in order to keep your intention burning bright.
Once you put a cake together in the proper way and place it in the oven to bake, a delicious fragrance begins to waft through the air. You get to enjoy the anticipation of experiencing that wonderful dessert!
Likewise, the more you tend to your New Year’s resolution and begin to experience the little successes along the way, the more you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You will feel amazingly elevated by the anticipation of how great you will feel at the end of the year, when you can write this down as one of your awesome successes.
So keep going. Whenever you stumble, forgive yourself, let go, and start over again. Be persistent, and you will have an amazing and fulfilling new year!
What are your New Year’s resolutions for the coming year? Do you have any experiences of previous successes or failures that you’d like to share? Tell me your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!