Sunday, January 17, 2016

Resolute: How Changing the Way I Wrote New Year's Resolutions Made a Difference

The way I celebrate New Year's has varied widely over the past 15 years. I've gone from popping bubbly in a dark barn, surrounded by horses to getting kicked out of a cougar bar. I've gone from partying with strangers to gathering with my dearest friends. 

No matter how, where, and with whom I celebrate, I always do one thing the same - I write New Year's resolutions. The countdown to midnight and the first kiss of a new year is thrilling, but there's something about writing a list of goals to be accomplished over the next 365 days that really gets my heart pounding. 

What can I say, lists turn me on. 

I always broke my New Year's list down into categories: mental, physical, and personal success. Under each heading I'd carefully write my goals in point form, leaving space to add a check mark upon completion. I would format space for footnotes, so I could add details of my successes and failures as the year progressed. 

That may seem ridiculously nerdy to most, but all the other list lovers out there will understand that having a well formatted set of goals made me feel like I could accomplish them better. If the list was well laid out and resolute I thought my achievement would be absolute. 

This, of course, was not always the case. I was usually able to accomplish things under the 'physical' and 'personal success' headings, but I'd falter under the 'mental' category. I'd write things like "put yourself out there more"; "let someone in"; "trust."

I kept failing at these point form, short sentenced goals that had a lot to do with my mind and my heart. I'd try, I really would, but I'd always stumble and these goals would end up back on the list the following year. I'd write them out again, frustrated and determined to improve. 

Things didn't change until a weekend in 2014 when I was working at the National Women's Show. I was helping promote a book by Jacquie Somerville, a life coach and author. Jacquie's a live-out-loud kind of woman that tries to inspire others through her own life experience. Many people responded strongly to her suggestions; I responded to one in particular - how to write your New Year's resolutions. 

Jacquie's suggestion was to write New Year's resolutions not as a list of short-form goals, but as a manifesto made up of questions. Ask yourself these questions and the answers will be your goals: 
  • Who am I going to be next year?
  • What will I no longer tolerate in my life? 
  • How will my life be different? 
  • What do I want to feel, experience, and accomplish in (insert year here)? 
  • Where will I go?
  • What will I change? 
I was intrigued by this idea and decided to throw out my dedicated way of writing lists and give the manifesto a try in 2015.

Answering the questions was a lot harder than I anticipated. I thought about it for a long time and tried to be as crushingly honest with myself as I could be. The most challenging question was - what do I want to feel in 2015? 

I was afraid of my answer. 

I wrote: I want to feel true love. I want to feel like I can trust someone enough again to let myself fall in love. I want to feel safe in putting my heart and dreams into someone else’s hands.

Words from my old point form goals reappeared in my answer and although it was difficult to write down, I realized I had to take this resolution seriously. 

This year I celebrated New Year's Eve in my pajamas with some close friends. After the countdown and the midnight kiss, we all started talking about our best moments from 2015. What had we accomplished? What were we proud of? 

Although I'd done a lot professionally to be proud of that year, standing there with my boyfriend's arm wrapped around me I said "when we got the keys to our new place." 

Words I thought I'd never say. 

I'm going to write my New Year's resolutions the same in 2016, asking myself the questions and letting the answers be my guide. The tough question this year is: how will my life be different? 

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