The process of making New Year’s Resolutions, as with any process of life changing, is often focused on new acquisition. I will develop née habits, I will add something to my life that I have never added before, I will be different because of my addition. Laudable and in many cases desirable things are being sought for. Yet sometimes the actions of acquisition and change are thwarted by existing patterns of behavior.
Year’s ago I received some wonderful counsel. After having obtained a new piece of clothing I was encouraged to “make room” for the new piece in my life (and my closet) by giving something else away. I won’t go through the experience here, but the encouragement was wise indeed.
The same encouragement could be applied to our process of creating resolutions. If you find yourself having difficulty keeping those new resolutions that you enthusiastically set at the onset of the new year, perhaps it is because existing patterns are Crowding them out. Maybe making room for the new by first thoughtfully eliminating some old, interfering habit will be the key to substantial change.
As we wind down the month of January, and draw our discussion of resolutions to a close, it is worth revisiting an earlier subject, that of inspiring changes.
It is tempting to see inspiring changes as those which are large in scope and appear to more widely impactful. Thus a resolution such as building schools for refugees in Africa seems very inspiring. And make no mistake, that can be inspiring. But so can serving an hour a month at a local school to help children read. Just because it is closer to home doesn’t mean it isn’t inspiring.
Furthermore, taking big actions once may feel more inspirational than little actions taken repeatedly. But for the man of subatance, it is worth remembering that the cumulative impact of small actions repeatedly taken often become more infectious and inspiring than any grand plans, however worthy they may appear.
How would you describe a resolution? In what ways is it different from a goal or a hope or an intention? These questions may seem obvious, even inconsequential, but I believe they hold the key to success when embarking upon making New Year changes.
The dictionary defines a resolution as a firm decision to do or not to do something. A goal, however, is the object of a person’s efforts; said another way, the goal is the milestone that tells us we have been resolute in our intention to make particular changes. This can help us understand why some resolutions (I’m going to lose weight) are more problematic than others (I will track my intentional exercise, no matter how small). One is more like a goal, requiring time to see results, particularly significant results. The other allows immediate feelings of success and value, build momentum quickly, and are reset easily.
So, when New Year’s Eve was over, were you making resolutions for immediate success? If not, the year is still young!
Most of us, when it comes to making changes, begin by looking at the obvious, the glaring, and the inspiring. We begin to think of losing weight, earning more money, and starting a puppy rescue shelter. All of these are great ideas, but they can be perilous to accomplish and often require more than we have to give.
Hence the importance of taking an inventory.
This inventory may include obvious things in our lives that need changing, but could also include small habits that thwart our grand plans. Perhaps it also includes a list of people that can help us move forward or an evaluation of the time and resources currently available for the pursuit of our extra curricular rejuvination.
I’m not saying that we should avoid embarking upon changing the obvious, the glaring and the inspiring. I’m suggesting that we wait just long enough to conduct a thoughtful inventory.
This month, we will focus on how a man of style and substance makes changes. While this is in part driven by the preoccupation that much of the world has with New Year’s Resolutions, it is also in response to the natural feeling of beginning again that accompanies the start of a new year.
Most people find themselves embroiled in conversations about resolutions during this time of year. For most, it is just that, a conversational activity. But for a man of style and substance, it should be much more thoughtful.
Later this month we’ll address resolutions along with larger types of changes and how to make them really stick. After all, a man of style should make only wise changes, and a man of substance should only make changes that will last.