Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

It's already January 2 - have you broken your first New Year's resolution yet?

One sure way to avoid breaking those well-intended resolutions is to just not make any at all.  Most of us are have higher expectations of ourselves than that, though, and we do want to improve.  We all have that little voice in the back of our heads that not only knows what's best for us, but has no problems nagging constantly about it.  In our better moments we heed that voice - we pick the salad over the fries, we walk up the stairs when we could take the escalator, we write the thank-you notes the next day instead of waiting till next week or next month.

It's so easy to slip back into slothful ways, though - and by slothful I don't only mean physical.  We have just as many bad mental habits as we do physical.  Actually, we have more, since the mind is where physical actions originate.

So how do you get yourself to not just pay better attention to that little voice in the back of your head, but to not end up breaking all those resolutions you make during the last minutes of a year?

You tell the right stories, is how.

We're all always telling stories about our lives.  I don't mean fiction; I mean the stories of our daily lives.  They're colored by how we feel about ourselves and how we are living, and they're important, not just for the information they convey to others, but also to ourselves and our little voices in the back of our heads.

Here's a scenario with a one-word story we all often tell (and are told):  Guy walks up and says "Hi, how are you doing?"  We say: "Fine."

"Fine?"  What kind of a story is that?  How often is it not even true?  How often have you given that response or a similar one, when really you were in pain, or you were worried about something, or you were angry?  We naturally hide our negative thoughts and feelings from others unless we know the person well enough to expose that vulnerable side of ourselves.

Here's another scenario that's too common:  We talk to people all day long - and to ourselves - and we tell the stories of how we are and what we fear we're going to become.  We run a repeat loop soundtrack in our minds of the problems we have, the pain we're feeling, the things we fear.  And then we wonder why we break our New Year's resolutions.

Oh, my pants are tight, I need to exercise more.  Yeah, but I need to find some exercise program that I'll stick to - I've never stuck to one for very long.  There must be something easy to do out there.  But I don't have time for exercise - it takes so long and I already have tons of stuff I need to do that I don't have time for.  Maybe if I just eat less…
Oh, I'll eat a salad tomorrow.  I deserve to have what I want sometimes - I don't have to be good all the time!  I'll have the fries, thank you.
The stories we tell about ourselves, particularly the ones we tell to ourselves, are stories we're putting out to the Universe and to the little voice in our heads about who we are.  And the Universe and our little voice believe it.  Those stories, being told over and over and over every day all day long, become a huge anchor that makes change difficult, if not impossible.

You can't sail off to a new place when the anchor's still holding you back.

There is no resolution more important than changing the stories you tell about yourself, whether you tell them to the outside world or you keep them in your head.  You can't make resolutions to change anything until you change the stories.

If you tell yourself and the Universe all the time that you're a fat person, you've put an anchor down that will keep you right there.  All the resolutions in the world won't sail the ship of health if your anchor is fat.

If you tell yourself and the Universe you're tired all the time, you've put an anchor down that will keep you tired.

If you tell yourself and the Universe that you're financially strapped, you'll keep yourself there.

Whatever you tell yourself and the Universe, there you are.

Of course, almost everyone has experimented with affirmations and many have found them to be less than useful.  Why?  Because affirmations - little statements you say once or twice a day, or read on the fridge door when you walk by (at least in the beginning - eventually you don't even see them any more) - are only little statements within the big stories of our lives.  They don't have the power to move that anchor.

Only you can hoist up the anchor so you can sail off.  Just make one resolution this year, and stick to it:  Make the stories of your life that you tell be of the life you want to live, not the life you don't want to live.

Not: My pants are tight, I want to exercise more.
Instead: I'm excited about exercising because when I do it I feel so good.

Not: I need to find some exercise program that I'll stick to - I've never stuck to one for very long.
Instead: I'm looking for the perfect exercise program for me and I can't wait to try them out.

Not: I don't have time for exercise.
Instead: I always have time for exercise because I like to do it!

Not: I'll eat a salad tomorrow. I deserve to have what I want sometimes
Instead: I love salads. Yum yum!

If you change the stories you tell of your life - every story every day every time you tell one - your life will change because you will have moved your anchor.  At first it will feel like lying - but it isn't.  You are the person who makes the choice of words you use and you can choose the ones that are positive and lead to where you want to go.

And the idea here is not just to say the words, but think about them, feel them in your heart, and believe them.  There's no point in saying you love salads if the whole time you're forcing a piece of tomato in your mouth you are wishing you were putting a fry in there.  What you think is a story you're telling, too - you need to tell yourself a story about what the tomato tastes like, how rich and flavorful it is, how satisfying it is and how much you're enjoying eating it.  You need to focus on what you want rather than what you don't have - and if enjoying a salad more than fries is what you want, then that's the story you need to tell.

Hoist up that anchor and sail on into 2011 and beyond!  You can do it!