Someone asked me, recently, about my take on New Year’s Resolutions–being a life coach, and all. Did I think they were helpful, for people? Pointless? Annoying?

My answer: I think New Year’s Resolutions are like anything else in life. Your experience of it is all how you relate to it. (And, by the way, we could be talking about whether to set goals or not set goals; whether to own a day-planner or not to own a day-planner; whether to have quarterly objectives or not to have quarterly objectives, etc.)

Every year, around this time, there’s a rash of articles on NYRs–here’s how you make them and keep them; a little tough love around keeping them; why it’s so helpful to keep them; the proof that they can work; the proof that they don’t work; NYRs are awful and you shouldn’t do them; here’s my rebellious stance on not making them and why I’ll never make them, again.

Truth? It’s all how you relate to whatever it is that you’ve got your attention focused on. People who enjoy making NYRs enjoy setting goals and following through. People who don’t care to make NYRs, just don’t feel called to make them.

And people who are passionately against them? If we just cut to honesty: clearly, there’s a trigger there.

Can’tcha smell it? That passionate rejection can carry just the wee-est (if that’s a word) hint of insecurity about, ahem, not following through on things. Perhaps the slightest little soupçon of judgment permeates their souls when they don’t follow through (again, another year, again, another year) on a resolution.

Or, even–a major shame attack (because it’s another year, again, another year, again, another year, again, and they’re perpetually saying they’re going to do stuff, and then not doing what they say they’ll do).

That place of self-criticism is a hard, hard place to sit with.

So, the answer often becomes to push it to the external: Damn those New Year’s Resolutions! They are the problem! I’m not taking it any more! I won’t subject myself to that, anymore!
 

Be the Steward

The thing is, this isn’t about what’s external to you. It’s internal. Your experience of anything is all about how you relate to something. You are not “subjected to” New Year’s Resolutions. You are the steward of your life, not the intangible NYR. You’re choosing how you use them.

 

If you use NYRs (or goal-setting, accountability, day-planners, organization kits, The Desire Map, a life coach, so-and-so’s 3 step plan, a workshop, a guru’s teachings, etc.) to beat yourself up and make yourself wrong for those times when you don’t follow-through or don’t see the results that you want, you’re going to have a miserable experience.

If you use NYRs as a practical means to an end, and you create the experience of setting them and following through as a positive addition to your life, you’re going to have a good experience.

For example: Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project was an entire process of understanding what made her happy as an end-goal, focusing on a specific aspect of happiness each month, charting it and tracking her progress, noticing the places where she needed to change up what she was doing…and it made her happier.

If she had treated it as a chore; if she had had a field day of criticism when things didn’t go as she’d hoped; if she had not been accountable about charting her progress and then turned on herself for not being accountable…surely, it would have been miserable.

Again, this is about being the steward of your own life. This is about deciding what narratives you’ll choose to take away from any experience. This is about taking personal responsibility for one’s own insecurity or sadness for any time that you didn’t follow-through in the past–without the critical bashing, without the shaming, and without making yourself “bad” for whatever behavior you chose.
 

What You Truly Want

In other words, if we all looked at the things that were triggers for us (like New Year’s Resolutions, not to mention people we don’t like, jobs we hate, etc.) and decided to examine why we were so triggered, why there was such a passionate need for outright rejection, and especially if we searched ourselves for any statements that put the “fault” for our feelings on something “out there,” like an arbitrary old New Year’s Resolution…we’d get much clearer.

Perhaps we’d all even get much clearer on what we truly want, because I’m guessing what we all want beyond NYRs like “lost 10 pounds” or “write a novel,” are things like…Love for ourselves. Acceptance. The ability to reconcile our behavior without self-hatred. The capacity to deal with and work through our own insecurity. Happiness. Peace. Choices that reflect what we truly desire and that honor how we want to feel in our day-to-day.

The rejection, the trigger, the lining up of a position to fight against something, just places another layer between you and what you actually desire.

A willingness to look at the (admittedly intense) feelings of “I don’t like that!” and “That’s where the fault lies!” and “I’m sick of this!” permeates that layer.

So perhaps there’s just one New Year’s Resolution that we could all make that would significantly better our lives–commit to looking at everything that you fiercely reject, not with the aim of somehow mindlessly affirming your way to liking it, but so that you clearly understand the real, underlying motives of why you so fiercely reject it.

Resolve to bring more awareness into your heart. That’s a resolution that betters not just you, but the entire world. That’s the kind of resolution that will give, and give, and give–as long as that’s how you choose to relate to it, of course.