You’ve got your New Year’s resolution on backwards!
Come New Year’s day, we are ready to make some changes. We look forward to the year ahead, picturing the kinds of people we want to be and the things we want to accomplish. We sit down to write our bold resolutions, pen and paper in hand. We’ll lose weight, play with our children more, get a raise, and run that 10k. This time we’ll be disciplined, this time we’ll be motivated to change for the better.
Yet come mid-Spring, many of us lose track of our resolutions. We conclude we’re not quite disciplined enough, or silly to think we could change anything. Year after year, this disappointment can wear on us, making some of us quite cynical of New Year’s resolutions. But I think there’s something we’re missing in this picture. Maybe it’s not that we’re not “disciplined enough” or somehow unable to accomplish change. Maybe instead there’s a problem with the way we’ve been told to get there.
Here’s the problem: Our way of doing New Year’s resolutions is backwards.
Let me explain. We function best in safe relationships which empower us to do things that are good for us and others. These relationships help us experience deep self-worth, confidence, discipline, purpose, and joy. It’s like a 2-year-old at a park, who, when he knows Mommy is present, can venture out and try new things. He climbs to the top of the slide because he knows mom is there, and will catch him if he falls. His confidence and motivation is the direct result of his connection to his most important relationship.
If this relational picture of motivation is true, then our resolutions are backwards. We sit down, alone, with a pen and paper, and motivate ourselves to do things differently. We grit our teeth and push forward, hoping that at the end of the tunnel is a different, more enjoyable life with deeper connection. It’s sadly ironic: the carrot at the end of the string is the very thing that would help us feel motivated in the first place.
So what can we do? I propose that if we are to do anything differently this new year, we should start with the relationships that give us life. My guess is, if you are frustrated and trying to change something in your life, you might also be longing for a deeper connection with those closest to you. What would it look like if, instead of sitting down with a pen and a resolution, you sat down with someone close to you and talked about what you would like more of in your relationship this year?
Picture what it would feel like to experience more safety and trust in your most central relationship. What difference would that make for you? What kind of person would you feel empowered to be? What obstacles would feel smaller? What tasks would feel easier?
It is primarily through close and intimate relationships that we find the strength and motivation to be the people we long to be. When we choose to prioritize relationship, we are tapping into a life-giving and life-changing source more powerful than any self-willed resolution.
This is why I enjoy meeting with my clients. I find as we connect and understand their life within a safe relationship new possibilities open up. They feel empowered to make changes in their life they were previously overwhelmed by. You don’t have to be stuck trying to make changes on your own. Let’s work together to help understand your life within a safe relationship – because change is possible.